Maurice Sendak

The Genius and Controversies of Maurice Sendak

-Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, also known as the Picasso of children's literature (within the lituraturary community), is an inspirational children's writer, whose works captured the hearts of both children and adults of different ages all across the world. He's most well known for books like, “Where the Wild Things Are”, and “In the Night Kitchen”, opening the minds of young children to magical Worlds. However Sendak found his inspiration from personal experiences, but what made him want to share it with the world, but with his genius, Sendak also wrote a lot of controversial books that had gotten him in a lot of trouble with Librarians and parents of young readers, but there must be a deeper meaning behind why Sebdak wrote what he wrote.

Maurice Sandek was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on June 10, 1928 to Polish-Jewish immigrants Philip, and Sarah Sendak. ( a young boy he did not have a lot of interest, and was limited to normal activities do to his poor health. Sendak was a sickly child who spent most of his childhood at home with his mother, slowly growing a interest in drawing as he found his new talent. ( As he got older, his sister began to bring home books from the library that later on became both his inspiration to write, and also his favorite books. At a you age, Sendak had begun reading books by authors that wrote books that were far beyond his age, giving him a “older” perspective on a lot of things. He read books by authors like Mark Twain, and Herman Melville and his interest in literature slowly began to grow.

After watching Walt Disney's Fantasia, Sandek became extremely interested in cartoon work, and was making professional cartoons by high school, he even illustrated a book for his biology teacher in high school, titled Atomics for the Millions (1947).( He also took a job as a window dresser for F.A.O Schwartz while he attend school at the New York Art Students League. He also illustrated his first children's book, The Wonderful Farm, by Marcel Ayme. He slowly became known more and more through out the literature community and more and more authors began to use young Sendak as their illustrator. (

Sendak was stubborn, and found himself having a hard time writing unless it fit with his “personal feelings”, and though he got a lot of his inspiration from English literature, he also had the perfect twist of European art interpreted into his books, finding his inspiration from artist like, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. After many years being a co-writer, and/or illustrator for the works of others, Sendak finally came out with his own masterpiece, that he never would of thought to become as popular as it did. In 1963, Sendak came out with one of his most famous books, Where the Wild Things Are. The book took people all across the world by surprise.

Children fell in love with Sendaks own fictional monsters known as “The Wild Things”, and even more so, Max, the young boy who travels to the island where the Wild Things are, and tames them as they except him as their kind. This book got Sendak a Caldecott Medal in 1964, given to him by The American Library Association. TheCaldecott Medal is given annually to a individual for the most distinct children's picturebook. (

Although many liked Sendak's incredible story of a young boy who travels to a distant land where wild monsters live, many parents tried to boycott the book, saying that Max (the main character) was a bad role model, and that the pictures of the monsters were to scary for children. Sendak ignored all the claims, and kept his book out, over time people began to drop all of the claims they made against the book, and it became acceptable.

In an interview with Joyce Dopkeen of The New York Times in 2008, Sendak said, “Something separates people now and then. And I think it's that moment that interests me, and compels me.” This implies in his writing, he simply writes his thoughts, and what he finds interesting, even with the knowledge that not everyone will agree with his perspective.

In another interview with Bill Moyers of PBS in 2004, Sendak made a statement saying that another reason the book could not be changed, and meant so much, was the story behind it that a had a personal connection to his private life. When Sendak wrote first version Where the Wild Things Are, it was called Where the Wild Horses Are, which was later edited by Ursula Nordstorm, who had decided to invest in this book calling it brilliant. Sendak immediately went to work on the book, but came to a halt when he discovered a serious problem, he could not draw horses. (

Knowing that he had a very important chance with Ursula's investment, he immediately began to brain storm what else would catch the eye of readers, until he found a even more interesting subject that he was positive would catch the attention kids all over the world. (

While Sendak was sitting in a funeral for a family member, he remembered the fear he had for his distant Jewish relatives as a child, how they use to have unruly hair, terrifying teeth, and even there noses. He also thought of how his relatives use to pick him up and kiss him and say “Arrrgh. Oh we could eat you up.”, which is where her got the books famous line “We'll eat you up we love you so.” (

That was the final reason why he refused, and bad mouthed the parents who believe the book was to scary for children, because the purpose of the book was actually to bestow the same fear he had had for his relatives, and turn it into a children's horror, giving the book more emotion behind it through his own personal experience.

Sendak received all of the glory from the literature community until 1970, when he came out with another well known book of his known as In the Night Kitchen, which proved more controversial, then helpful. (

In the book a young boy named Mickey, explores the city, and the different types of work that goes on at night their. Midway through his travel, the young boy ends up completely nude, though he later on ends up in cloths made by none other then doe he gets caught in while he's exploring the kitchen. They also believe that the milk droplets flowing through the air, and the empty milk bottle on the table to represent masturbation, and that it was a Freudian sexual extreme.

A lot of Sendaks writing was formed from the books he read at such a young way, molding his ideas on life and children's literature, sometimes blinding him from appropriate and inappropriate, and it showed drastically in much of his writing, but he reached his goal of capturing the interest of children who learned to enjoy to read through his controversial writing, and illustrating. Mothers of young readers, and Liberians were completely outraged by Sendaks new book, and began to make sure it was banned from certain libraries. And any of the libraries that did accept it, did things such as tape dippers into the pictures, or draw shorts on young Mickey, trying to hide the inappropriateness of the young new boy from the innocent eyes of young children. But similar to the result with Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak paid no attention to any of the complaints he received and continued to have more of the books printed, until the fight over the book became scares and then slowly disappeared, though many parents and Librarians still believed the book should no longer be printed.

Another book that Sendak wrote that had a rough landing was his book We're All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, where two white hobos known no other as Jack and Guy, rescue a black baby, and decide to keep him. People looked at the book as him making a controversial statement, and the question also came up on whether the two men were homosexuals.

Not long after the book was put on shelves, Sendak was interviewed by Sarah Lyall of The New York Times, during his interview, he made a statement referring to the parents who critized yet another book he wrote, saying, ‘' It's like Pavlov's dogs: Every time I do a book, they all carry on. It may be good for business, but it's tiresome for me." But almost as much as Sendak ignore the feeble attempts of the parents who wanted his book gone, parents ignore all statements made by Sendak. As time went by people began to forget about the book, saying that there were worse things in the world at that time to care about something so simple.

After this book, Sendaks controversial writing began to die down, and he continued doing things like illustrating books of his own and for other authors. He also occasionally had other illustrators do the art for his books, and even illustrated the popular show and book called Little Bear, while also coming out with a stage play form of Where the Wild Things Are. (

Maurice Sendak continued writing books and illustrating them to this day, refusing to retire anytime soon. His stage designs were later put in a book form called The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1890 to the Present. In conclusion, books like this have helped Sendak receive his reputation as a genius, but also a very controversial writer. The positive and negative impacts of Maurice Sendak's writing has left a permanent mark in the world, from ground breaking books like Where the Wild Things Are, to controversial books like In the Night Kitchen, Maurice Sendaks writing will forever live in the hearts of people all across the world for the wayhe writes stories, and interprets his own personal thoughts into all the work he does.





4. Sept 10, 2008, on page E1 of the New York Times

5. Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.

6. Sendak, Maurice. In the Night Kitchen. HarperCollins Publishers 1996. Print.

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