Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak passed away last year, but today is his 85th birthday. In his honor, Google has posted an animated Doodle running through some of Sendak's classic books.
The Doodle has already appeared on New Zealand's Google, and I expect the rest of us will be seeing it on our home Google pages as June 10th comes upon us. The animation takes us through Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Sendak's 2011 book Bumble-Ardy. Happy Birthday, Mr. Sendak.
Maurice Bernard Sendak (/ˈsɛndæk/; June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012) was an American illustrator and writer of children's books. He became widely known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, first published in 1963. Born to Jewish-Polish parents, his childhood was affected by the death of many of his family members during the Holocaust. Besides Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak also wrote works such as In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There, and illustrated Little Bear. In later life, he became an atheist and in 2008, announced he was gay.
Sendak died in 2012 after suffering a stroke.
Sendak was born in Brooklyn, to Polish Jewish immigrant parents Sadie (née Schindler) and Philip Sendak, a dressmaker. Sendak described his childhood as a "terrible situation" because of his extended family's dying in The Holocaust, which exposed him at an early age to death and the concept of mortality. His love of books began at an early age when he developed health problems and was confined to his bed. He decided to become an illustrator after watching Walt Disney's film Fantasia at the age of twelve. One of his first professional commissions was to create window displays for the toy store F.A.O. Schwarz. His illustrations were first published in 1947 in a textbook titled Atomics for the Millions by Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff. He spent much of the 1950s illustrating children's books written by others before beginning to write his own stories.
His older brother Jack Sendak also became an author of children's books, two of which were illustrated by Maurice in the 1950s.
Sendak gained international acclaim after writing and illustrating Where the Wild Things Are. The book's depictions of fanged monsters concerned some parents when it was first published, as his characters were somewhat grotesque in appearance. Before Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak was best known for illustrating Else Holmelund Minarik's Little Bear series of books.
Sendak later recounted the reaction of a fan:
A little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children's letters - sometimes very hastily - but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said: 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' 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.
When Sendak saw a manuscript of Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories, the first children's book by Isaac Bashevis Singer, on the desk of an editor at Harper & Row, he offered to illustrate the book. It was first published in 1966 and received a Newbery Honor. Sendak was delighted and enthusiastic about the collaboration. He once wryly remarked that his parents were "finally" impressed by their youngest child when he collaborated with Singer.
His book In the Night Kitchen, originally issued in 1970, has often been subjected to censorship for its drawings of a young boy prancing naked through the story. The book has been challenged in several American states including Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Texas. In the Night Kitchen regularly appears on the American Library Association's list of "frequently challenged and banned books". It was listed number 21 on the "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999".
His 1981 book Outside Over There is the story of a girl, Ida, and her sibling jealousy and responsibility. Her father is away and so Ida is left to watch her baby sister, much to her dismay. Her sister is kidnapped by goblins and Ida must go off on a magical adventure to rescue her. At first, she is not really eager to get her sister and nearly passes her sister right by when she becomes absorbed in the magic of the quest. In the end, she rescues her baby sister, destroys the goblins, and returns home committed to caring for her sister until her father returns home.
Sendak was an early member of the National Board of Advisors of the Children's Television Workshop during the development stages of the Sesame Street television series. He also adapted his book Bumble Ardy into an animated sequence for the series, with Jim Henson as the voice of Bumble Ardy. He wrote and designed three other animated stories for the series: "Seven Monsters" (which never aired), "Up & Down", and "Broom Adventures".
Sendak produced an animated television production based on his work titled Really Rosie, featuring the voice of Carole King, which was broadcast in 1975 and is available on video (usually as part of video compilations of his work). An album of the songs was also produced. He contributed the opening segment to Simple Gifts, a Christmas collection of six animated shorts shown on PBS TV in 1977 and later issued on VHS in 1993. He adapted his book Where the Wild Things Are for the stage in 1979. Additionally, he designed sets for many operas and ballets, including the award-winning (1983) Pacific Northwest Ballet production of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, Houston Grand Opera's productions of Mozart's The Magic Flute (1981) and Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel (1997), Los Angeles County Music Center's 1990 production of Mozart's Idomeneo, and the New York City Opera's 1981 production of Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen.
In the 1990s, Sendak approached playwright Tony Kushner to write a new English version of the Czech composer Hans Krása's children's Holocaust opera Brundibár. Kushner wrote the text for Sendak's illustrated book of the same name, published in 2003. The book was named one of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Illustrated Books of 2003.
In 2003, Chicago Opera Theatre produced Sendak and Kushner's adaptation of Brundibár. In 2005, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, in collaboration with Yale Repertory Theatre and Broadway's New Victory Theater, produced a substantially reworked version of the Sendak-Kushner adaptation.
In 2004 Sendak worked with the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra in Boston on their project "Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale". This Klezmer version of Sergei Prokofiev's famous musical story for children, Peter and the Wolf featured Maurice Sendak as the narrator. He also illustrated the cover art.
Sendak also created the children's television program Seven Little Monsters.
Sendak chose the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to be the repository for his work in the early 1970s, thanks to shared literary and collecting interests. His collection of nearly 10,000 works of art, manuscripts, books and ephemera, has been the subject of many exhibitions at the Rosenbach, seen by visitors of all ages. Sendak once praised Herman Melville's writings, saying, "There's a mystery there, a clue, a nut, a bolt, and if I put it together, I find me." From May 6, 2008, through May 3, 2009, the Rosenbach presented There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak. This major retrospective of over 130 pieces pulled from the museum's vast Sendak collection is the largest and most ambitious exhibition of Sendak's work ever created and is now a traveling exhibition. It features original artwork, rare sketches, never-before-seen working materials, and exclusive interview footage. The exhibition draws on a total of over 300 objects, providing a unique experience with each set of illustrations.
Exhibition highlights include the following:
· Original color artwork from books such as Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, The Nutshell Library, Outside Over There, and Brundibar;
· "Dummy" books filled with lively preliminary sketches for titles like The Sign on Rosie's Door, Pierre, and Higglety, Pigglety, Pop!;
· Never-before-seen working materials, such as newspaper clippings that inspired Sendak, family portraits, photographs of child models and other ephemera;
· Rare sketches for unpublished editions of stories such as Tolkien's The Hobbit and Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, and other illustrating projects;
· Unique materials from the Rosenbach collection that relate to Sendak's work, including an 1853 edition of the tales of the Brothers Grimm, sketches by William Blake, and Herman Melville's bookcase;
· Stories told by the illustrator himself on topics like Alice in Wonderland, his struggle to illustrate his favourite novels, hilarious stories of Brooklyn, and the way his work helps him exorcise childhood traumas.
Internationally, Sendak received the third biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 1970, recognizing his "lasting contribution to children's literature". He received one of two inaugural Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awards in 2003, recognizing his career contribution to "children's and young adult literature in the broadest sense". The citation called him "the modern picture-book's portal figure" and the presentation credited Where the Wild Things Are with "all at once [revolutionizing] the entire picture-book narrative ... thematically, aesthetically, and psychologically." In the U.S. he received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association in 1983, recognizing his "substantial and lasting contributions to children's literature".
· Caldecott Medal from the ALA as illustrator of "the most distinguished American picture book for children", Where the Wild Things Are, 1964. (Sendak was one of the Caldecott runners-up seven times from 1954 to 1982, more than any other illustrator, although some have won multiple Medals.)
· Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's book illustration, 1970
· National Book Award in category Picture Books for Outside Over There, 1982
· Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, 1983
· National Medal of Arts, 1996.
· Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children's literature, 2003
Sendak was honored in North Hollywood, California, where an elementary school was named after him.