Born June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, Sendak was a sickly child. He spent much of that youth inside drawing and creating. His first published illustrations appeared in 1947 and he continued painting until his death.
Maurice began illustrating books for other authors before breaking out with his own effort with the Caldecott winning "Where The Wild Things Are" in 1963. That classic tale is perhaps the most memorable of his long and storied career and has inspired countless authors and artists to reach for their dreams. I remember being mesmerized by both the the story and pictures.
The simplicity of both the story arc and text are deceptive. The book The Art of Maurice Sendak details the journey that the artist went on in order to create the masterpiece. The seeds for the book were planted as early as 1955 and then underwent drastic changes over dozens of drafts before it crystallized in the form that we know and love today.
Many people were disturbed by the book claiming it was too scary or even that it encouraged defiance of parental authority. In spite of the naysayers, "Wild Things" sold over 700,000 copies in its original hardcover printing. Through 2009, the book has sold over 19,000,000 copies.
Though Sendak went on to write and illustrate over twenty picture books and illustrated over fifty other books, he never quite matched the success that "Where The Wild Things Are" achieved.
A posthumous picture book called "My Brother's Book" is scheduled for release next February.
Read an excellent tribute to Sendak in the New York Times here.
Buy Maurice Sendak and the Art of Children's Book Illustration