Maurice Sendak, gatekeeper to the magic of young minds and noted loveable curmudgeon, has died, HLN confirms.
If you were a child or knew a child within the last 50 years or so, you probably knew Sendak's work. His most famous book, "Where the Wild Things Are," revolutionized children's literature and was banned on more than one occasion for portraying the world of a child as grotesque, a little scary, and totally fun. Other works included "In the Night Kitchen," "Outside Over There," "Higglety Pigglety Pop!" and many more.
Sendak's talent far exceeded his writing and creative ideas; he also illustrated all of his own books. Undoubtedly, they are images that have influenced young imaginations for generations, and probably still hang on the walls of school libraries the world over.
Sendak was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964 for his illustration work in "Where the Wild Things Are," the Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration in 1970, and several other awards in the following decades. Despite wide recognition for his talent some of his books were censored and others were criticized for their departure from traditionally "cute" and safe depictions of childhood life.
Outside of his personal work, Sendak also illustrated dozens of other books, including Else Holmelund Minarik's "Little Bear" series, and made great accomplishments in set design, script writing, and animation.
Despite being considered a "children's author," Sendak developed a reputation as an abrasive and straightforward guy. In a two-part appearance on the "Colbert Report" just months before he died, Sendak explained that though he is considered a cherished children's author, the sentiment isn't always reciprocated.
"I don't write for children. I write. And somebody says 'That's for children.' I didn't set out to make children happy. or make life better for them," he said.
Perhaps the best tale from Sendak's complex and storied relationship with his readers is the widely quoted gem that follows:
“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
People have already taken to munching their favorite Sendak memories:
Elijah Wood tweeted: "Maurice Sendak has left us for the land of the whild things. May he carry on adventuring"
Judy Blume, famous young adult novelist, tweeted "Maurice Sendak has died. I cannot put into words what I am feeling, what he and his work meant to me."
Here is Sendak waxing not-so-poetically on life and death in an excerpt from the Spike Jonze documentary "Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak:"
Rest in Peace, Mr. Sendak. And wherever you are, we hope your supper is waiting for you, still hot.