The death of Maurice Sendak, author of "Where the Wild Things Are" and other wonderful children's books, is a great loss for children's literature. His books, which included "In the Night Kitchen," "Alligators All Around," and the Little Bear books, were favorite reads for my children. Each one carried just the right tone of whimsy, and the illustrations had a classic beauty.
Sendak also had a wicked sense of humor, judging from the interview he gave Stephen Colbert early this year. Here are a couple of excerpts.
Colbert: Let's talk about kids. I don't trust 'em. They're just biding their time until we're gone, and then they get our stuff.
Sendak: That's an interesting point of view.
Colbert: Thank you.
Sendak: But not interesting to me, particularly.
Colbert: Why write for children?
Sendak: I don't write for children.
Colbert: You don't?
Sendak: No. I write. And somebody says, "That's for children."
Reflecting on his life, he told National Public Radio last year: "I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more. ... What I dread is the isolation. ... 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."
Reuters reported that Sendak, a sickly child, spent much of his time indoors. He became a professional illustrator after working briefly as a window dresser at the F.A.O. Schwarz toy store in New York and taking classes at the New York Art Students League. He won international acclaim in 1963 with "Where the Wild Things Are" about a boy who imagines a world of toothy monsters. The following year the American Library Association awarded him the prestigious Caldecott Medal for his illustration in the book.