Today I learned that legendary children’s book creator, Maurice Sendak, passed away at the age of 83. Most readers grew up sharing an adventure with Max and the Wild Things. Many people visited his beloved Night Kitchen, and pop-up folks lined up for one of the 500,000 first edition copies of Mommy. I had the great privilege to work with Matthew Reinhart on Maurice’s first pop-up book, released in 2006. Due to Sendak’s schedule and various production hurdles, the creation of this pop-up book lasted a few years. It was always exciting when Reinhart would return from Maurice’s house in Connecticut with an arm full of new art. Maurice always complained that creating the art “was not a lot of fun…I felt as though I had been put in an old-age home and the nurses had given me a project, and I found myself wishing that they had given me a basket to weave instead.” Once the book was finally completed, Maurice admitted to being impressed. Maurice was always grumbling or displaying some of his dark humor and Reinhart or Sabuda would often share stories of visits with the beloved curmudgeon. His recent interview with Stephen Colbert was a very funny and accurate portrayal of Sendak.
I was supposed to meet Maurice during the Eric Carle Honors ceremony in 2008, but he was unable to attend for health reasons. Instead they showed a great video clip from the Rosenbach Museum. My favorite part starts at minute 5:30 and we were all cracking up by the end of the segment.
Besides Mickey Mouse and Mozart, few knew that Sendak had a great fondness for Lothar Meggendorfer and collected many of his books. He has written about his admiration of these movable books in various publications and Maurice’s involvement with Brooklyn Pops-up was a great source of pride on all sides.
After Mommy was released Maurice turned his attention to the film adaptation of his most celebrated book, Where the Wild Things Are, another project that was long in the making. I remember hearing that Maurice laughed when he learned that children were crying during an early test screening of the fearsome Wild Things, but director Spike Jonze was also able to capture some of his more tender moments during the production of concurrent documentary “Tell Them Anything You Want” and I think that is where we should leave off for today.
Goodbye Maurice. Thank you for the wild ride.