It’s a sad day for everyone who ever put on a wolf costume, got sent to bed without dinner and/or dreamed of being fierce rulers of our own private island. Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, died early this morning at age 83 of complications from a stroke, according to the New York Times.
In 1963, when he first published the story of rebellious Max and his adventures as the king of a tribe of monsters, it was a huge departure from the safe Dick and Jane world of children’s literature. Now generations of us will recall identifying with Max’s anger, fear, euphoria and melancholy — for some of us, it’s the blueprint for the way we’ve wanted to feel about every fictional character that follows.
Sendak himself had a curmudgeonly, Max-ish reputation, which probably initially grew from growing up an underprivileged, gay Jew in Brooklyn. It also made for a hilarious interview with Stephen Colbert in January, as he railed against ebooks, mice, celebrity children’s books authors and Newt Gingrich.
“I didn’t set out to make children happy!” he said. Sorry, Maurice, you did.