It's the birthday of the children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1928. His parents were Polish immigrants, and as Maurice was growing up, many extended family members died in the Holocaust. So his parents were constantly grieving for their family back in Poland, and they were worried about Maurice, who was a very sick child. He almost never went outside — most of what he knew about the world outside his bedroom came from visiting family members, from the view through his window, and from books. His dad read to him before bed every night, and his mom was constantly hovering around, making sure he was all right. So when he eventually became an illustrator, he oftentimes painted a moon in the background as a symbol of his watchful mother. He started drawing, got a job in high school drawing the Mutt and Jeff cartoon strip into comic books, and went on to art school. When he was 19, he illustrated a physics book, Atomics for the Millions (1947). Then he worked for years designing the window displays for FAO Schwartz while he took night classes at art school.
And eventually he started writing and illustrating his own books for children, books about normal kids who end up in surreal settings where strange things happen, books like Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970). Maurice Sendak has illustrated more than 90 books. He said: "You cannot write for children. They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them."
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Maurice Sendak Turns 81
A friend reminded me this morning that it is Maurice Sendak's birthday today: