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Maurice Sendak, children’s author, dies at 83

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Author and artist Maurice Sendak, writer of some of the darkest yet most beloved children’s books of the 20th century, died May 8 at 83.

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Sendak’s classics included 1963’s, "Where the Wild Things Are," whose yellow-toothed, grasping monsters were based on his relatives, "In the Night Kitchen," “Alligators All Around,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “One Was Johnny,” “Pierre,” and many others.

The New York Times said Sendak was

the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche

People Magazine wrote that in January, "a frail but erudite Sendak made a memorable appearance" on The Colbert Report, and said, "There’s something in this country that is so opposed to understanding the complexity of children."

Sendak was born in Brooklyn to Polish immigrants. He was often quoted as saying, he had "no childhood" because much of his extended family died in the Holocaust. "His parents kept the information from him, but he picked up bits of information about his missing relatives from his older siblings," New Hampshire Public Radio wrote.

"Do parents sit down and tell their kids everything? I don’t know. I don’t know," he told Fresh Air radio program host Terry Gross in 2003. "I’ve convinced myself — I hope I’m right — that children despair of you if you don’t tell them the truth."

The Eulogizer, and perhaps my children, who know many of Sendak’s books by heart, will have more to say on Sendak soon.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Follow the Eulogizer on Twitter @TheEulogizer

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