Farewell to Maurice Sendak

Children's illustrator and author dies at 83 in US state of Connecticut.


    Children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated dozens of books, but made his name with the 1963 story of Max the little boy in, Where The Wild Things Are.

    Max was sent to bed without any supper for being naughty only to dream of monsters who think that he - Max - is the scariest thing they've ever seen.  

    It has a happy ending because when Max wakes up his supper is waiting for him on his bedroom table and it's still hot.

    The book is a childhood favourite, so much so, that at last month's Easter egg roll at the White House, US President Barack Obama read it to a group of kids on the lawn.

    Some children were absolutely terrified by the monsters in Where The Wild Things Are, others adored them.

    'Tattered' life

    Sendak, who was a famous, old curmudgeon in real life, always insisted on two things.  

    One, he would never lie to children.  

    According to Sendak, the monsters are based on his Eastern European relatives who would turn up at home in New York when he was a boy.

    "They grabbed you and twisted your face, and they thought that was an affectionate thing to do", he was quoted as saying.

    "They're foreigners, lost in America, without a language. And children who are petrified of them, and don't understand that these gestures, these twistings of flesh, are meant to be affectionate".

    Sendak frequently had to defend his stories from critics who argued they went outside the norm of US children's literature.

    As he told the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, the repository for his life's work:  "Primarily it is to be healthy, funny, clever, upbeat and not show the little tattered edges of what life is like. But I remember what life is like and I didn't know what else to write about."

    Book Store

    I went to Kramer books in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood of Washington, DC, something approaching a Mecca for book lovers in the US capital.

    The manager, Caroline Mellor, told me sales of Sendak hold up well compared to other children's favourites like Roald Dahl.

     "People probably know Roald Dahl a little more because he has more books.  I think also Roald Dahl writes for a little older crowd.  People remember reading those stories on their own whereas they read Maurice Sendak with their parents."

    So, Maurice Sendak is dead at 83 ... but his life's work will live on in the hearts, minds - and quite possibly nightmares - of children and their parents the world over.



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