Maurice Sendak: Biography & Works

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Best known for his ~'Wild Things~', author and illustrator Maurice Sendak was a force to be reckoned with in children's literature. In this lesson, we'll take a look at his life and his works.

''Let the Wild Rumpus Start!''

''Let the wild rumpus start'' is one of the most famous quotes from one of Maurice Sendak's most famous books, ''Where the Wild Things Are'', a story about an ornery little boy named Max who envisions a world of boy-eating monsters after being sent to bed without supper one evening.

A Caldecott Medal winner, Sendak wrote more than 50 children's books during his life and lent his illustrative capabilities to scores of other book enjoyed by children for nearly 60 years.

Let's take a look at the life of this storied contributor to children's tales and a few of his most popular creations.

Sendak's Childhood

Maurice Sendak was born June 10, 1928, in New York City, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. He grew up in Brooklyn as a sickly child, spending a lot of time indoors with his head buried in books. His childhood was also impacted by the deaths of several family members during the Holocaust.

Sendak's artistry was motivated by the movie ''Fantasia'', which he saw with his family at the age of 12. By the time the movie ended, Sendak knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Not surprisingly, Sendak was an excellent artist from a young age, and even went to work for All-American Comics when he was still in high school. A few years later, Sendak was taking night classes at the New York Art Students League, and working on window displays at toy store F.A.O. Schwarz, when an encounter with editor Ursula Nordstrom would alter the course of his life forever. Nordstrom helped Sendak channel his illustrating talents into children's books, designing art for books by Ruth Krauss (such as ''I Want to Paint My Bathroom Blue'').

Sendak's Life

Sendak worked illustrating more than 80 books for other authors before eventually deciding to get into the writing game himself. In 1963, he released his most iconic work, ''Where the Wild Things Are.'' Sendak always said he was inspired to write and illustrate books based on his own childhood experiences and exposures, including the Holocaust, the Lindbergh kidnapping and the anger and depression he endured at home. He wrote intentionally about what he called ''real life,'' and not the always happy-go-lucky books many have come to expect from children's literature.

Some of Sendak's most popular works include:

  • Kenny's Window: A journey of self-discovery from a boy who dreams of a land where he would like to live forever.
  • Outside Over There (National Book Award)
  • In The Night Kitchen: The nighttime adventures of a young boy in a baker's kitchen. It was somewhat controversial for illustration of the main character in the nude.
  • Where the Wild Things Are (Caldecott Medal winner): Sendak has said this book was based on his own relatives, who would come to visit and ''say all the same dumb things.''
  • Seven Little Monsters: Giant mischievous monsters wreak havoc in a village of tiny townspeople.
  • Mommy?: Sendak's only pop-up book, this story shows what happens when a young boy wanders into a house of monsters looking for his mommy.
  • Bumble-Ardy: Released in 2011, this was Sendak's last book before his death. An ornery pig who's never had a birthday party decides to throw a party for himself that goes out of control.
  • My Brother's Book: Published in 2013 after Sendak's death, this book features poetry and illustrations dedicated to Sendak's brother, whom the author frequently credited for his love of reading and writing.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account