Brought a new approach to kids' books
LOS ANGELES Maurice Sendak, the children's book illustrator and author whose unsentimental approach to storytelling revolutionized the genre and whose best-known tale was the dark fantasy "Where the Wild Things Are," has died. He was 83.
Sendak, who also was a set designer for opera and film, died Tuesday at a hospital in Danbury, Conn., his friend and caretaker Lynn Caponera said. He had suffered a stroke Friday, she said.
He had already been proclaimed "the Picasso of children's books" by Time magazine when, in his 30s, he wrote and illustrated "Where the Wild Things Are." It became one of the 10 best-selling children's books of all time.
The work, published in 1963, was a startling departure from the sweetness and innocence that ruled children's literature. "Wild Things" tapped into the fears of childhood and sent its main character an unruly boy in a wolf costume into a menacing forest to tame the wild beasts of his imagination.
Librarians banned the book as too frightening. Psychologists and many adults condemned it for being too dark. But a 1964 Los Angeles Times review echoed many critics: The "aggressive flight of fantasy" was "the best thing of its kind in many a year."
By then, "Wild Things" had won the Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children.
When President Obama read from "Wild Things" to children at the White House Easter egg roll in 2009, he called it one of his favorite books.
Sendak bristled at the notion that he was an author of children's books and told People magazine in 2003 that he wrote stories "about human emotion and life."
"They're pigeonholed as children's books, but the best ones aren't they're just books," he said.
Published in The Record/Herald News on May 9, 2012