Maurice Sendak

Powerful Essays
Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak was born June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were poor immigrants from Poland who came to America before World War I. Many of his relatives died in the Holocaust, and this was an important influence upon his childhood. His parents were always upset about the relatives they had lost and the cloud of death was always in the air. He even drew the faces of some of his relatives who died in the Holocaust in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Zlateh the Goat.

Sendak is the youngest of three children. He was also a very sickly child, who always caught pneumonia or some sort of illness. He grew up under the constant fear of his own death. His mother was very concerned, and always kept a watchful eye over him. For this reason, many of Sendak's books have a picture of a moon in the scene. This is representative of his watchful protective mother, peeking over him to make sure he is safe. (Sendak also puts a fish in pictures for his father. “Sendak” not only means “fish”, but also is a remembrance that there is always something fishy in all of his work.)

Sendak grew up in a family of storytellers. His father told (uncensored) stories that were considered “not for children.” They were nightmarishly scary stories of pogroms, death, love affairs, and other Jewish tales. His brother wrote stories, and his sister bound the stories into books that they sold on the sidewalks. Sendak loved hearing his father tell stories, and associates good books with being close and spending time with his father. Everyone in his family also read stories, and growing up, Sendak was jealous of his older siblings who could read words. He would even beg his sister to bring him books from the library (as opposed to children’s books), just so he could smell, touch, and taste them. His sister also gave him his first book, The Prince and the Pauper, by Mark Twain. Although he could not even read it at the time, Sendak slept with the book, and still has it today.

In 1947, at the age of nineteen, Sendak co-authored and published his first book, Atomics for the Millions. He began his illustrating career by drawing comic book pictures. In 1951, Sendak began freelance illustrating and writing.

Sendak published Kenny’s Window in 1956. It is a story about a child who is curious about the world outside of his front door. Very Far Away, Sendak's...

... middle of paper ... adult world.

Sendak’s special interest is to get kids and parents to read together. This, he believes, is the best way for kids to learn to love reading, and more importantly, share magical times with their parents.

"Perhaps no one has done as much to show the power of the written word on children, not to mention on their parents, as Maurice Sendak."

-President Clinton, January 9,1997.

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