10 Things You Didn’t Know About: Maurice Sendak

sendak_headshotThe recently departed and fondly remembered Maurice Sendak is one of the most famous, treasured and controversial author/illustrators for children in modern times. Many of us know him for his award winning book Where the Wild Things Are, but did you know that he illustrated more than 80 books for other authors before authoring one for himself?

Here are 10 more interesting facts that you probably did not know about Maurice Sendak:

1. Before becoming the beloved author and illustrator we all know of today, he and his older brother Jack created fantasy inspired, hand-made wooden toys. They eventually tried selling their creations to FAO Schwartz with no success. It did, however lead to Maurice landing a job with the famous toy company “dressing windows”.

2. In the early 1980’s Disney made a Where the Wild Things Are short animated film that never materialized into a full feature. The short was created by future Pixar great John Lasseter and was one of the earliest cartoons to use computer animation.

3. His first published book was a science textbook – Atomics for the Millions. Sendak contributed illustrations in his recognizable style.

4. In 1989, on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, he confesses that he didn’t ever write with children in mind — but that somehow what he wrote turned out to be for children nonetheless.

5. Maurice was not the only writer in his family. His older brother was also a children’s writer. Jack Sendak wrote several books, including two illustrated by Maurice; The Happy Rain and Circus Girl.

6. Maurice Sendak tragically lost a lot of his family members in concentration camps during the holocaust of the 1940’s.

7. He had a musical play titled Really Rosie, with 274 performances Off-Broadway. Sendak himself wrote the lyrics and created the sets and it featured music by Carole King.

8. Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen was on the American Library Association’s frequently challenged and banned books list. It features Mickey, a little boy who, while dreaming, appears nude throughout much of the book, including full frontal.


9. Did you know that Maurice Sendak illustrated the popular Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik? Even before the success of Where the Wild Things Are, he was on his way to becoming a household name of children’s literature.

10. The original title of Where the Wild Things Are was actually Where the Wild Horses Are and was to feature, naturally, various types of horses. It was changed after Sendak confessed to his editor that he couldn’t draw horses. When asked what he could draw, he replied “Things.”


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