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Beloved Children's Author Maurice Sendak Dies


We're sorry to confirm that Maurice Sendak died today. The author of "Where the Wild Things Are" was 83. He suffered a stroke last week. Sendak wrote and illustrated books that children found wonderful, even though the children in the books lived in a world populated by monsters and other terrors. Sendak told me in a 2006 interview that his books reflected his unhappy childhood. He based a monster in "Where the Wild Things Are" on a relative. Another book features a baby being kidnapped, just as the Lindbergh baby was famously kidnapped when Sendak was a boy.

MAURICE SENDAK: I had my father sleep in our room. We all shared a room, my brother, sister and I. And he had to sleep - and I still can see him with his underwear top, trousers, a baseball bat lying on the floor. And in case the kidnapper came in, he would kill him. And when my Uncle Joe - who I then used as the ugliest of all the Wild Things, because I loathed him - was - he said to my father: Why would they want your kids, Phillip?


SENDAK: How insulting could that be to a child, when he isn't worthy of being kidnapped?

INSKEEP: Have you now gotten even with the people who made your childhood unhappy?

SENDAK: No, of course not. But, you know, being in a fury and not getting even is a lot of the energy that goes into work.

INSKEEP: Do you think that your theme has evolved at all over time?

SENDAK: Well, yes. It's because, hopefully, I've evolved, and I'm not so angry, and I'm not so impassioned to point out: look, look, look. This is bad. This is bad for the kid, you know. That's what I used to do. I used to worry about the kid terribly, and think that was the purpose of my work, was to simmer parents down or make them aware, or in something, protect them. And look, the happy ending of the pop-up is his mother is Frankenstein's bride. Ain't that a happy ending?



INSKEEP: Maurice Sendak, who died today at age 83. At the end of that 2006 conversation, he was referring to a book showing a boy searching, happily, for his mother in a haunted house, a book that is, of course, called "Mommy?"

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.