1928 - 2012

"It's like I'm a receptacle, a repository for all the people I love. All I can do with them is keep them."

- Maurice Sendak

Noted for his compassionate and curmudgeonly demeanor, Maurice Sendak changed the face of children’s literature in America with his unique writing and illustration style. He maintained that, “If children are different from us, they are more spontaneous. Grown-up lives have become overlaid with dross.” Sendak was born on June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, to two Jewish parents from Poland. As a child, Sendak repeatedly fell ill and often explored his love for drawing rather than resting. Sendak obtained his first job illustrating children’s books after meeting Ursula Nordstrom at his part-time job at F.A.O. Schwartz, a toy store in New City . He went on to illustrate and write around 150 books throughout his career. He is known for his incredibly popular children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963. The story was so captivating because of its creepy, unnerving illustrations of monsters that one did not expect from a children’s book at the time. Additionally, he wrote and illustrated other titles such as: The Sign on Rosie’s Door (1960), The Nutshell Library (1962), In the Night Kitchen (1970), Bumble-Ardy (2000). Later in his life he was also a set designer for theaters, allowing him to incorporate his vision into the works of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Prokofiev. Sendak received several accolades throughout his life including the Caldecott Medal in 1964, the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1970, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2003. In 1996, he received the National Medal of Arts, presented to him by President Bill Clinton. Sendak officially came out as gay when he was 80 years old in an interview with the New York Times. He spoke openly about his experience being closeted and his fear that the American public would forsake him if they knew a gay man was writing the books their children were reading. His partner, Eugene Glynn, was a psychoanalyst who moved to Connecticut with Sendak in 1972. They were together for 50 years. Sendak passed away due to stroke-related complications at the age of 83 in 2012.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White Jewish

Faith Construct Atheist

Nations Affiliated United States Afghanistan

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Great Depression (1929-1939) Information Age (1970-present) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution


Art, Music, Literature & Theater


Fashion Designer

Social Sciences


US History

Commemorations & Honors

Child Study Association of America's Josette Frank Award (1956)

Caldecott Medal Awardee (1964)

Hans Christian Andersen Award (1970)

National Book Award (1982)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for American Children's Literature (1983)

Honorary Doctorate From University of Connecticut (1990)

National Medal of Arts (1996)

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (2003)

Honorary Doctorate From Goucher College (2004)

New York Writers Hall of Fame Inductee (2013)

Google Doodle Commemorating Sendak's 85th Birthday (2013)


Related Videos


Original Biography Author
Annie Tompkins
Biography Edited By
Carrie Maxwell
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell
Annie Tompkins