Maurice Sendak, who wrote “Where the Wild Things Are” in 1963 passed away today after suffering a stroke. He was 83.
Sendak, who in his early professional career created window displays for the toy store F.A.O. Schwarz, wrote over 15 books – including 2011’s “Buble-Ardy.” He was most famous for “Wild”, however, selling over 19 million copies of the famed children’s story.
Sendak gave an interview to Bill Moyers of PBS awhile back, revealing exactly how we came up with the story I love so much. I’m just going to paste the entire response below – since it’s hilarious – but please click over when finished to check out the entire thing. Truly, a wonderful man. RIP Maurice – and thanks.
MOYERS: Why did you write WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE?
SENDAK: I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. Let me tell you of its origin—it’s brief. I had done a series of books and in those days back in the ’50s, you couldn’t do a picture book unless you’d done a number of books that paid off somewhat or at the very least showed that you had more talent. And you can move onto the next.
There’s not much money back then. I don’t think Madonna would have been interested in writing a book in the ’50s, okay? So, it was my turn. I had earned my 10 years apprenticeship of doing any number of books. Now, I could do a book. And my editor’s name was Ursula Nordstrom. And she without equivocation was the best.
She was this torrential woman, passionate woman, who could spot talent 10 miles away. I had no education. I did not go to art school. My drawing was so crude. I had shines on shoes like in Mutt ‘n’ Jeff in Walt Disney. And she saw through that monstrous crudity and cultivated me, really made me grow up. And then, it was time to do my own picture book.
And I came to her with a title that was “Where the Wild Horses Are.” And she just loved that. It was so poetic and evocative. And she gave me a contract based on “Where the Wild Horses Are.” And then, it turned out after some very few months to her chagrin and anger, I couldn’t draw horses. The whole book would have to be full of horses to make the book make sense.
And when I tried a number of things, I remember the acid tones. She said, “Maurice, what can you draw?” Okay. Cause she was investing in a full color picture book. That was an enormous thing back then.
And so, I thought well things, things. Could be anything I could draw without negotiating things I can’t draw. And then, we were at… someone had died. My brother, sister and I were sitting shiva, the Jewish ceremony.
And all we did was laugh hysterically. I remember our relatives used to come from the old country, those few who got in before the gate closed, all on my mother’s side. And how we detested them. The cruelty that children… you know, kids are hard.
And these people didn’t speak English. And they were unkempt. Their teeth were horrifying. Nose… unraveling out of their hair, unraveling out of their noses. And they’d pick you up and hug you and kiss you, “Aggghh. Oh, we could eat you up.”
And we know they would eat anything, anything. And so, they’re the wild things. And when I remember them, the discussion with my brother and sister, how we laughed about these people who we of course grew up to love very much, I decided to render them as the wild things, my aunts and my uncles and my cousins. And that’s who they are.