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.”
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?”