The Pointe

MidPointe Library's Official Blog

Remembering intuitive children's author Maurice Sendak, born this day in 1928

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His children’s books challenged conventional publishing, raised eyebrows, worried librarians and parents...and earned the favor of children around the world. 

Perhaps his most memorable contribution to children’s literature is the 1963 classic, “Where the Wild Things Are,” for which he won the prestigious 1964 Caldecott Medal from the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. (*) 

Indeed, to author Maurice Sendak, born on this date, June 10, in 1928, (**) children were intuitive, realistic and deserving of books that reflected those innate qualities. Janet B. Pascal, author of the juvenile biography, “Who Was -- Maurice Sendak?,” wrote:  

“Maurice Sendak knew that it wouldn’t hurt children to read about his scary Wild Things. Even as a small child, he knew that the world was full of monsters. The only way to deal with them was to do what Max (the main character) did – stare them in the eyes and show them who was boss.” 

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A Brooklyn, New York, native and son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Sendak became aware of scary things at a young age, Pascal continued. 

She recounted the early 1930s, when Sendak was a small child and one of the most notorious crimes ever committed in America captured headlines : the kidnapping of the baby son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne. The baby’s body was found in woods a few months later. 

 “Even though Maurice was not yet four years old, the story terrified him,” Pascal wrote. “The Lindbergh baby was a perfect little American with blond curls and dimples. If a little boy like this wasn’t safe, how could the sick child of a poor Polish couple in Brooklyn be safe?”  

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In addition, the future children’s author “grew up during the time when Europe was moving toward World War II. Both of Maurice’s parents had many Jewish relatives in Poland...The Nazi Party in Germany was taking power. The Nazis wanted to get rid of all the Jews in Europe...” 

Maurice’s parents “tried to help family members in Poland escape. They were able to bring some relatives to the United States. But many others did not make it out,” Pascal wrote.  

In time, their worst fears were confirmed. “On the morning of his bar mitzvah..., Maurice learned that his father’s entire village back in Poland had been destroyed by Nazis. Every one of his relatives in Europe had been killed,” the biographer wrote. 

“From an early age, Maurice knew that terrible things happened in the real world. But most children’s books showed the world as a cozy, secure place,” Pascal continued. “When he started to write his own children’s books, he decided not to do that. ‘You learn very quickly that parents can’t protect you,’ he said. ‘You never feel safe. It’s the way I know I felt as a child.” 

Pascal explained that before “Where the Wild Things Are” was published, “most children’s books only talked about nice feelings.” After it was released, she wrote, “people started to realize that it was good for a picture book to deal with other feelings, like anger and fear...” 

She reported that Sendak was “happy to receive such a great honor” as the Caldecott Medal. “But it pleased him more that children liked his book...” 

Maurice Sendak died May 8, 2012 in Danbury, Connecticut. (*) 

 
Sources: 
(*) From the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a Division of the American Library Association  

http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecottmedal 

 (**) From Chase’s 2019 Calendar of Events” available for checkout at MidPointe Library. 

All other information for this article can be found in the book by Janet B. Pascal : “Who Was – Maurice Sendak?” available for checkout at MidPointe Library. It is one of the popular “Who Was---?” series.  
 

Images: 
The cover of “Who Was Maurice Sendak?” by Janet B. Pascal. Sendak’s likeness was illustrated by Stephen Marchesi. 

The cover of “Where the Wild Things Are” from MidPointe Library’s eLibrary, accessible via www.midpointelibrary.org > eLibrary > eBooks > Hoopla 

Or directly at: https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/10741121 

The color photo of Maurice Sendak is from the cover of another biography, “Maurice Sendak,” by Chris Bowman. It’s available for checkout via: 

www.midpointelibrary.org > eLibrary > eBooks > Hoopla > Maurice Sendak 

Look to MidPointe Library’s on-shelf catalog and vast eLibrary for literally thousands of children’s material, fiction and non-fiction!  www.midpointelibrary.org  

Then join us at MidPointe Library for our ever-popular “Summer Reading Program” for all ages and interests! It’s being observed now through July 31 at all five locations: Middletown, West Chester, Trenton, Monroe, Liberty Township (2nd floor, Liberty Center) and onboard our roving “Library On Wheels,” formerly known as The Bookmobile. 

Read books for prizes, see special guests and more at “Summer Reading”!