June 10 – Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak

Posted June 10, 2013

He hated school. But he loved books.

Lucky for all the rest of us, Maurice Sendak was inspired by Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and Fantasia, by his father's retellings of Bible stories and folktales, and by children's illustrators such as Randolph Caldecott and Beatrix Potter.

Born on the same date as my mom but the same year as my dad—which makes me feel ridiculously connected to the man!—Maurice Sendak began to illustrate children's books when he was just 19 years old. His most famous illustrations of the period before he began writing books are the charming drawings in Else Holmelund Minarik's Little Bear series.

When Sendak was 35 years old, he wrote and illustrated the book Where the Wild Things Are. He quickly became famous worldwide, although some thought the wild things were too grotesque and the story too—well, too wild!

Sendak loved getting fan letters from children and prided himself on answering all of them. Most of his responses were “hasty,” as he put it—he was a busy guy, and he had a lot of fans—but one letter and hand-drawn picture from a boy named Jim really caught his attention. Sendak reports that he took some time with his response to little Jim, and he drew a Wild Thing on his response back.

So some lucky boy now had an original Sendak! Wow! That must be worth a lot of money, right?

Nooooo...because the little boy loved that letter from Sendak so much that he ate it! 

Sendak loved this anecdote. He said, “That to me was one of the highest compliments I've ever received. He didn't care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

I think little Jim might have been a bit of a Wild Thing himself!

Maurice Sendak was born in Brooklyn, New York. He explained that what others may think of as his dark side developed young, as he and his family lived in the shadow of the Holocaust; all of his aunts and uncles in Poland died at the hands of Nazis! Sendak died a little more than a year ago in Connecticut.

Celebrate Sendak!

Which of Maurice Sendak 22 books is your favorite? Aside from the fantabulous WtWTA, I particularly love The Sign on Rosie's Door.

Maybe you can do an exploration at the local library to read some that you've never read before, in honor of Sendak's birthday.

Or re-read all your favorites.

Or watch the movie Where the Wild Things Are.

Check out some books that Sendak illustrated but didn't write. (There are dozens!) Does he have lots of different styles of art? One of my favorites is A Hole Is to Dig, by Ruth Krauss and Jandy Nelson.

If you really get into it today, you can have an entire Wild Things party! Let the wild rumpus start! 

Also on this date:

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest pages on June holidayshistorical anniversaries in June, and June birthdays.

And here are my Pinterest pages on July holidayshistorical anniversaries in July, and July birthdays.

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