The Wild World Of Maurice Sendak

Author Maurice Sendak celebrates his 80th year on Sept. 15 with a benefit in Manhattan. In addition to penning the children's classics, Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen, Sendak has written, designed and produced several operas and ballets. In 2003, he collaborated with playwright Tony Kushner to write an English version of the Czech children's opera Brundibar.

This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 30, 2003.

A Conversation with Maurice Sendak

On Life, and Living

Maurice Sendak at 76. i i

At 76, Maurice Sendak still has that glint in his eye. Alice Winkler, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alice Winkler, NPR
Maurice Sendak at 76.

At 76, Maurice Sendak still has that glint in his eye.

Alice Winkler, NPR
Mickey Mouse rocking chair owned by Maurice Sendak.

One of Sendak's favorite things is his Mickey Mouse rocking chair. Alice Winkler, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alice Winkler, NPR
Herman, the German Shepherd, curls up on a 'Wild Things' rug.

Herman, the German Shepherd, curls up on a rug with a 'Where the Wild Things Are' theme. Alice Winkler, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alice Winkler, NPR

From 'Bears'

Detail from cover of 'Bears' shows Max snuggled into bed. i i

Max, one of the most endearing characters in children's literature, is safe abed surrounded by friends. HarperCollins hide caption

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Detail from cover of 'Bears' shows Max snuggled into bed.

Max, one of the most endearing characters in children's literature, is safe abed surrounded by friends.

HarperCollins

From 'A Hole Is to Dig'

Illustration of children opening package from 'A Hole Is to Dig'

A package is to look inside... HarperCollins hide caption

itoggle caption HarperCollins

His favorite subject? "Scaring children."

His most treasured possessions? Mickey Mouse memorabilia.

His best buddy? A boisterous German Shepherd named for Herman Melville.

This is Maurice Sendak at 76, as Jennifer Ludden found after a trip into the New England woods to interview the famed author and illustrator of books for young readers, best known for 1964's Where the Wild Things Are.

"Maurice Sendak looks kinda like a Wild Thing," Ludden notes. "Curly hair on a balding head... a glint in the eye... yet a softening smile around the mouth."

But Sendak's latest published work isn't scary at all. It's a re-illustration of a 1948 book by one of his mentors, Ruth Krauss, called Bears. The drawings put Max, the hero of Wild Things, in slightly friendlier surroundings. But he still finds himself in the middle of an adventure.

Krauss, best known for The Carrot Seed and husband Crockett Johnson, creator of Harold and the Purple Crayon, met Sendak at 22, after he had suffered a series of rejection from publishers.

His big break came through illustrating the Krauss book A Hole Is to Dig. The little volume of definitions features a softer, simpler Sendak.

Alice Winkler produced this piece.

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