Maurice Sendak was born June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, NY. His parents were Polish Jews who had immigrated to the States; most of his childhood was impacted by loss of family members who were still in Poland during the Holocaust. He was inspired by Mickey Mouse and collected Disney memorabilia throughout his life. His first professional artistic endeavor was creating window displays for FAO Schwartz, which was published in Atomics for the Millions (1947). He would collaborate with various living and classic authors throughout his career, with his artwork featured in a total of 111 books, magazines, and collections. He wrote and illustrated a total of 18 books, two of which were published posthumously- My Brother’s Book (2013) and Presto and Zesto in Limboland (2018).

Sendak would be most known for his book, Where the Wild Things Are (1963). This would be his only work to be awarded the Caldecott Medal, despite initially facing negative reviews from librarians, educators, and parents for its depictions of the Wild Things. It would be challenged or banned by organizations until 2009. Yet, the book has been regarded as one of the best children’s picture books of all time. Where the Wild Things Are was number four on the list of “Top Check Outs OF ALL TIME” by the New York Public Library in 2020, according to gothamist.com. It has been adapted into numerous plays and animated shorts and was adapted into a live action full feature film, with life-size Wild Things puppets constructed by The Jim Henson Creature Shop, released to theaters in 2009, with Sendak as a producer. While the live action film was critically panned when it was released, the film has become a cult classic among young adults and puppeteering fans in modern years. Both the original book and the live action film tackle more serious and complex topics, under the guise of imaginary play and monsters. He was also known for illustrating the beloved Little Bear (1957-1968) series, authored by Else Holmelund Minarik, and adapted into an animated series in 1996 and a direct-to-video film in 2001.

Front Cover of Maurice Sendak’s most well-known and recognized book- Where the Wild Things Are (1963).

When his life-long partner of 50 years, psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Glynn, passed in 2007, Sendak formally and publicly revealed to NYT that he was gay. Sendak donated $1 million to the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, where Glynn had been employed, in his partner’s memory. Sendak created his own for-profit foundation- the Maurice Sendak Foundation– two years before his death; according to their website, their goal is “promoting greater public interest in and understanding of the literary, visual, and performing arts.” Sendak’s foundation also created a fellowship and residency for budding artists and writers to grow their skill through mentorships. Sendak passed away in 2012 from complications following a stroke. His legacy lives on through his books, their adaptions, and the incredible pieces of artwork he produced in his lifelong career.

While visiting Westlake Porter Public Library during the month of February (2024), be sure to check out the displays in our library- you might see some recognizable children’s book characters that made their debut in 1963. Generously on loan from one of WPPL’s staff members, this collection spans over three decades, and includes amazing pieces such as; a hardcover “Art of Maurice Sendak” coffee table book, his well-known timeless children’s picture books, and a complete set of Where the Wild Things Are vintage plush toys.

Above Illustration from Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (1970).

Maurice Sendak Materials at WPPL

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm (1954)

Little Bear Series: Father Bear Comes Home, Little Bear’s Friend, Little Bear’s Visit, A Kiss for Little Bear (1957-1968)

Alligators All Around (1962)

Chicken Soup with Rice (1962)

One was Johnny (1962)

Pierre, a Cautionary Tale (1962)

Where the Wild Things Are (1963)

Where the Wild Things Are book and CD kit (1963)

In the Night Kitchen (1970)

Bumble-Ardy (2000)

Where the Wild Things Are (and 5 More Stories) DVD (2002)

Where the Wild Things Are Live Action Adaption (2009)

Cat B.

Cat has been a part of the Youth Services team at WPPL since January 2023, and previously worked in the Circulation Department. She has a Bachelor's of Fine Arts Degree in Animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design (2021), and has participated in four separate charity zines since graduation and creates freelance illustrations whenever her nose is not in a book.