Maurice Sendak, the American writer and illustrator best known for Where the Wild Things Are, has died at the age of 83. The cause of death was reportedly recorded as complications from a recent stroke.
Sendak was born in New York in 1928 to Jewish Polish immigrant parents, and he noted in interviews that the death of members of his extended family in the Holocaust meant he was exposed to the realities of death and tragefy from an early age. Having been hospitalised due to ill health at the age of 12, he saw the Walt Disney film Fantasia and decided to become an illustrator.
Having received his first professional commission by his early 20s, Sendak moved into the world of children’s books and his first major success came in 1963 with the publication of Where the Wild Things Are. More than 19m copies of the book have been sold worldwide, half of them in the United States, and the story of a young boy’s trip to the land of the Wild Things has become one of the most popular children’s books of the past century.
Sendak had another hit in 1966 when he provided the images for Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Zlateh the Goat. The book won numerous awards, and then in 1970 Sendak had more success with In the Night Kitchen, about a young boy’s surreal trip through a baker’s kitchen. Although popular, the book has subsequently been challenged in many libraries due to the fact that the young boy is naked for much of the book.
Maurice Sendak continued to write and illustrate books throughout the 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s. In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, he said “I refuse to lie to children”, and he spoke of his wish for a happy death, using William Blake as an example of the fact that such a feat should be possible. He had lived with his partner Eugene Glynn for half a century before Glynn passed away in 2007, and Sendak’s last book was Bumble-Ardy, about a pig who decides he wants a birthday party.