The great American children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak has died, aged 83. Where the Wild Things Are, his best known work, became a bedtime story for generations.
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He illustrated more than 100 books, many of which he wrote himself, winning some of the highest accolades in literature. Maurice Sendak died in hospital in Connecticut during the night, after suffering complications from a recent stroke. He was 83.
Susan Katz, the president and publisher of HarperCollins, which published his work, described him as "a glorious author and illustrator, an amazingly gifted designer, a blisteringly funny raconteur, a fierce and opinionated wit, and a loyal friend to those who knew him". And, she went on: "Every once in a while, someone comes along who changes our world for the better. Maurice Sendak was such a man."
Sendak was born in Brooklyn in 1928, the youngest child of Polish immigrants. His childhood was blighted by ill health and a disinterest in school, spending most of his time engrossed in books, turning to drawing as a means of expression.
While working as a window dresser at the childrens' toy store FAO Schwarz, he was introduced to a childrens' book editor. Commissions swiftly followed and his career as an illustrator was born.
But it was his 1963 work, Where the Wild Things Are, that won him international recognition, selling more than 17 million copies and becoming a favourite bedtime story for generations of children.
The book spoke to Sendak's dark, almost dangerous imagination: a story about a small boy, Max, who sets off on an imagined adventure through the Kingdom of the Wild Things after his parents send him to bed without his supper. The book bristles with horrible monsters and terrifying escapades, but if parents had any misgivings, their children loved it, and still do.
In 2009 the director Spike Jonze turned it into a film, with the screenplay by David Eggars.
Patricia Cohen, in her eloquent profile in the New York Times, writes that Sendak's work was fuelled by his intrinsic feeling of inadequacy, a family largely wiped out by the Holocaust, and fierce obsessions, like the Lindberg kidnapping case, which seared itself into his imagination at the age of just four. "His hatreds are fierce and grand," she wrote, "as if produced by Cecil B DeMille."
Sendak lived with the psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn for 50 years, until his death in 2007, but he never told his parents that he was gay: he also feared it would have damaged his career as a childrens' writer had he been open about his sexuality from the start.
One of his books, In the Night Kitchen, which features a surrealist tale of a naked little boy tumbling into a bowl of cake batter, was dedicated to his parents, but he considered his best work to be Outside Over There, published in 1981. It is another dark tale, this time of sibling rivalry, depicting a young girl who resents her baby sister, and allows her to be abducted by goblins.
In similar vein, Sendak's last work, Bumble-Ardy, was released in September, about a pig who decides to throw a wild party while his aunt is away. His parents, who had not been keen on allowing him any such fun, end up getting eaten.
Sendak was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1996, and became the first American to receive the Hans Christian Andersen award, the highest honour in childrens' literature.
As for his own mortality, Sendak was fatalistic: "There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready", he told National Public Radio in an interview last year.
But without doubt the books he wrote and illustrated are sure to have a lasting impact for generations to come. Even presidents were among his his fans. The US President Barack Obama has made something of a tradition out of reading Where The Wild Things Are at his annual White House Easter Egg roll, describing the book as "an all time classic".