Mureil Cornwell

Written by Mureil Cornwell

Modified & Updated: 31 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


Maurice Sendak, the legendary author and illustrator, has left an indelible mark on the world of children’s literature. With his unique storytelling style and captivating illustrations, Sendak has enchanted readers of all ages for decades. From his groundbreaking book “Where the Wild Things Are” to his lesser-known works, Sendak’s contributions have solidified his status as a literary icon.

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of Maurice Sendak and explore 15 intriguing facts about his life and career. From his early years as a Jewish immigrant in Brooklyn to the legacy he created with his beloved characters and narratives, we will uncover the fascinating details that shaped Sendak’s remarkable journey. So, join us as we take a closer look at the life, inspirations, and enduring impact of Maurice Sendak.

Key Takeaways:

  • Maurice Sendak, the author of “Where the Wild Things Are,” was a beloved illustrator who refused to lie to children and drew inspiration from his childhood memories and love for dogs.
  • Despite facing challenges and bans, Maurice Sendak’s work continues to captivate readers with its imaginative illustrations and thought-provoking storytelling, leaving a lasting impact on children’s literature.
Table of Contents

Maurice Sendak was born on June 10, 1928.

Maurice Sendak, the renowned American author and illustrator, entered the world on a summer day in Brooklyn, New York.

He is best known for his book “Where the Wild Things Are”.

Where the Wild Things Are” is Sendak’s most iconic work, capturing the imagination of children and adults alike with its imaginative illustrations and captivating storytelling.

The book has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

Where the Wild Things Are” has become a literary phenomenon, enchanting generations of readers and cementing Sendak’s legacy as a beloved author.

Sendak received the prestigious Caldecott Medal for the book.

In recognition of his exceptional illustrations, Maurice Sendak was awarded the Caldecott Medal, the highest honor in children’s book illustration, for “Where the Wild Things Are.

He started his career as a window display artist.

Before his successful career in writing and illustrating, Sendak honed his artistic skills by creating captivating window displays for a well-known toy store in New York City.

The illustrations in his books often featured dark and complex themes.

Sendak’s unique storytelling style and intricate illustrations challenged traditional narratives and explored profound and sometimes unsettling themes, inviting readers to confront their emotions and fears.

Sendak once said, “I refuse to lie to children.”

Known for his honesty and authenticity, Maurice Sendak believed in treating his young readers with respect and never shying away from difficult topics in his books.

His work has been frequently challenged or banned.

Due to the controversial and thought-provoking content in some of his books, Maurice Sendak’s work has faced numerous challenges and bans in schools and libraries across the United States.

He illustrated over 80 books throughout his career.

In addition to writing his own stories, Maurice Sendak collaborated with various authors, bringing their words to life with his imaginative and evocative illustrations.

Sendak’s illustrations were heavily influenced by his childhood memories.

The artist drew inspiration from his Jewish heritage, his experiences growing up in Brooklyn, and the stories his parents told him. These influences are evident in the whimsical and nostalgic feel of his illustrations.

He designed sets and costumes for ballet productions.

Sendak’s creative talents extended beyond the world of books. He collaborated with renowned choreographer George Balanchine, designing sets and costumes for several ballet productions.

Maurice Sendak was awarded a National Medal of Arts.

In 1996, Sendak received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton, recognizing his significant contributions to the arts and his impact on children’s literature.

His book “In the Night Kitchen” sparked controversy.

“In the Night Kitchen” drew attention for its depiction of a young boy’s naked body, leading to challenges and debates over its appropriateness for young readers.

Sendak passed away on May 8, 2012.

Maurice Sendak’s legacy continues to live on even though he is no longer with us. His works continue to inspire and captivate readers of all ages.

He had a deep love for dogs.

Sendak’s affection for dogs was often reflected in his illustrations, where canine companions frequently made appearances in his stories.


Maurice Sendak was a remarkable and influential figure in the world of literature and illustration. His timeless works such as “Where the Wild Things Are” have captivated readers of all ages and continue to inspire new generations. Through his unique storytelling and breathtaking illustrations, Sendak brought imagination to life and explored the complexity of childhood experiences.

His strong and bold characters, along with his willingness to tackle difficult and sometimes controversial subjects, made him a trailblazer in children’s literature. Sendak’s ability to connect with readers on an emotional level is a testament to his extraordinary talent. His legacy will forever be cherished, and his impact on the literary world will never be forgotten.


1. What is Maurice Sendak known for?

Maurice Sendak is best known for his book “Where the Wild Things Are,” which has become a classic in children’s literature. He is also recognized for his unique and visually stunning illustrations.

2. How did Maurice Sendak influence children’s literature?

Sendak revolutionized children’s literature by addressing complex and sometimes controversial themes. He challenged conventional storytelling norms and encouraged children to embrace their imagination and express their emotions.

3. Were there any controversies surrounding Maurice Sendak’s work?

Yes, some of Sendak’s books, including “In the Night Kitchen,” faced challenges due to their content and illustrations. Despite that, Sendak firmly believed in the importance of addressing difficult subjects and never shied away from pushing boundaries.

4. What makes Maurice Sendak’s illustrations special?

Sendak’s illustrations are renowned for their vibrant colors, intricate details, and the way they bring characters to life. He had a unique ability to capture the emotions and expressions of his characters, making his illustrations memorable and captivating.

5. How did Maurice Sendak’s work impact future authors and illustrators?

Sendak’s work has been incredibly influential, inspiring countless authors and illustrators to venture into the world of children’s literature. His willingness to tackle complex themes and explore the inner workings of a child’s mind opened new doors and paved the way for innovative storytelling.

6. Did Maurice Sendak receive any awards for his contributions to children’s literature?

Yes, Maurice Sendak received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the Caldecott Medal, Hans Christian Andersen Award, and the National Medal of Arts. His work continues to be recognized for its significant impact on children’s literature.

Maurice Sendak's enchanting stories have captivated readers for generations, but there's more to explore in the world of children's literature. Dive into the charming adventures of Little Bear, a beloved character who has captured hearts with his gentle nature and delightful tales. For those who love seeing their favorite stories come to life on the big screen, don't miss our fascinating facts about the Where the Wild Things Are movie, which brings Sendak's iconic book to life in a visually stunning way.

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