In order to make one understand what human nature is, a person must be cultivated from his/her earliest sections of life. Just as the psyche is forming the ability to understand complex thoughts and concepts, it should be nurtured by images and words that provide tools for how to be human. Maurice Sendak understood this and profoundly more. His images guided generations of people to Where the Wild Things Are. Here in this world we could be a little boy searching for the way out of life only to discover that we need to be not only involved, but caring and cared for to survive.

Maurice brought us conflict and resolution in dream worlds where the most extraordinary things kept us laughing and questioning ourselves and the wider scope of society. He was controversial in his art; pressing the limits and being banned in some circumstances because he would not compromise his integrity of vision. Milestones take us to new heights in the world of art, not only illustration. When we reflect upon such things as his thread of the horror faced by children in the world, particularly the Holocaust. The Washington Post quotes him in today’s paper with several wonderful memories of how he helped us all realize our inner power as people.

An admitted obsession with “children and their survival” and the “humongous heroism of children” fueled a career of groundbreaking darkness in children’s literature. President Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts in 1996, saying, “His books have helped children to explore and resolve their feelings of anger, boredom, fear, frustration and jealousy.” – Washington Post May 8, 2012 Becky Krystal

Not restricted to the singular art form, Maurice pushed the limits of all artistic expression to make his message known, as the Washington Post also reports.

In addition, Mr. Sendak worked in film, television and opera. In the early 2000s, he collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner on a restaging and book adaptation of Hans Krasa’s children’s opera “Brundibar,” which had long been associated with being performed by children imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp.

“The Holocaust has run like a river of blood through all my books,” Mr. Sendak once said, explaining that as the child of Jewish immigrants from Poland, the Nazi death camps were never far from his mind.

Mr. Sendak’s greatest achievement was to elevate the picture book “to an individual, contained art form that integrates words and illustration,” said Cathryn M. Mercier, director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College in Boston.

Just as significant, Mercier said, was Mr. Sendak’s success in introducing a dark, often surreal vision to a field long dominated by cuteness and the preciousness of childhood.

Mercier said the Sendak trilogy of “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963), “In the Night Kitchen” (1970) and “Outside Over There” (1981) “crashed open the gates” for what themes authors could address in children’s literature. – Washington Post May 8, 2012 Becky Krystal

Ms. Krystal reports so well his life and work, I did place a link to the LA Times above, but also please follow this link to the Post article:

My earliest memory of Sendak’s work was reading Where the Wild Things Are to my sister when she was a toddler. Growing up in an artistic family, we were surrounded by works such as this to inspire and educate us. I later went with her to the film version and we sat in awe as to how it still spoke to us in this form. In fact, the film seemed more for us as adults than it did for the children who sat around the theatre seeing images of amazing creatures but not understanding the nuances of the psychology behind the story and image.

I, for one, will always teach my children the power of thought, dreams, and challenging oneself. I have Maurice Sendak and my parents to thank for that since they taught me and he reinforced it with beauty and meaning.

Rest in Peace. May the muses guide you to eternal rest in the dream of beauty.

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