The World of Children According to Maurice Sendak
"From their earliest years, children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions.... [F]antasy is the best means they have for taming Wild Things." -- Maurice Sendak, in his acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal in 1964
Perhaps the most important and best-loved children's book illustrator of the 20th century, Maurice Sendak has challenged and changed the way adults perceive childhood, and what we think is appropriate for young children to read.
In a career spanning 5 decades of children's book publishing, Sendak has illustrated more than 80 books for children. Among the most memorable are the titles he authored as well, including Where the Wild Things Are, winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1964, Higglety Pigglety Pop! (1967), and In the Night Kitchen, a 1970 Caldecott Honor Book. In that same year, Sendak received the Hans Christian Andersen Illustrator's Medal for his body of work.
Disturbing Adults, Delighting Kids
A sometimes controversial artist (an anatomically correct Mickey falls out of the dark -- and his pajamas -- to land In the Night Kitchen), Sendak probes the stuff children's dreams are made of, and some parents are wary of what he finds. But what disturbs some adult readers engages their children. As most of us who have read aloud to our kids can attest, four-year-olds are amused, not frightened, by the claw-footed Wild Things tamed by Max, a fork-wielding tantrum thrower. And they relate to, rather than withdraw from, the anxiety and guilt of Ida, who lets goblins steal her baby sister in Outside Over There.
Although he has no children of his own, Sendak has what he himself has described as "a passionate affiliation with childhood." This, more than anything else, accounts for the enduring popularity of his books. Sendak is touched when parents, who loved his books as children, introduce him to their children. It will not be long before those kids are reading Sendak to a third generation of Wild Things.
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