Updated 05/08/2012 09:09 PM
Award-Winning Writer, Illustrator Maurice Sendak Dies
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The creator of the famous children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" has died.
A longtime friend says Maurice Sendak died Monday at age 83 at a Connecticut hospital after suffering a stroke last week.
Sendak is perhaps best known for writing and illustrating "Where The Wild Things Are," which won the Caldecott Medal for best children's book of 1964 and was turned into a movie in 2009.
Other popular books by Sendak include "In The Night Kitchen," featuring the bare-bottomed main character Mickey, and "Seven Little Monsters."
"He raised the bar of children's books at that time, from things that were cute and fuzzy and embraceable to characters that had real dimension to them," said Steven Heller of the School of Visual Arts.
Born in Brooklyn in 1928 to Jewish immigrants from Poland, Sendak often said the real monsters in his childhood were his relatives.
"He came from an unhappy background. He would talk about it often, as if it was a badge of endurance, kind of a championship that he won, to see how long he could survive his background, and a lot of that came out in his work," said Heller.
In "Where The Wild Things Are," a boy named Max is sent to bed without any dinner as punishment for misbehaving. The boy would use his imagination to escape into a land where monsters roamed free.
"Sendak understood children and he didn't understand them in a cutesy sweetness kind of way. He understood that they got angry, he understood that there was a dark side to children," said Elizabeth Bird of the New York Public Library.
In January, Sendak made one of his last public appearances on "The Colbert Report."
During that appearance, host Stephen Colbert asked Sendak for advice on a children's book he was working on.
That book, "I Am A Pole And So Can You," was published Tuesday.
While promoting the book on "Live With Kelly," Colbert reflected on his experience getting to know Sendak.
"[He's] just the most wonderful artist and just a tremendously honest guy and it was such an honor for those of us at the show to get to know him. But he also called the book terribly, supremely ordinary," Colbert said.
The cover of Colbert's book contains a Sendak quote that reads "The sad thing is, I like it."
Sendak's body of work included an animated television series, opera productions and stage and costume design. But his legacy will be his wildly popular style of communicating with children with illustrated books that just may never grow old.
"When people give gifts to children it's the classics that they turn to, and the biggest classics of all is 'Where The Wild Things Are,' so Sendak is forever," said Bird.