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Maurice Sendak, creator of Where the Wild Things Are (1964) and other classics of children’s literature, was born on this date in 1928. He was the child of poor Polish Jewish immigrants and lost nearly the entirety of his extended family in the Holocaust. Sendak’s drawings were filled with craft, detail, and cross-hatched grotesquerie; his stories often had nightmarish elements that “wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche,” according to the New York Times‘ Margalit Fox. Among the other books that he wrote and illustrated were In the Night Kitchen (1970), which has been repeatedly banned for portraying its young hero Mickey in the buff, and Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life (1967), the story of an adventurous dog Jennie. Sendak also created sets for the opera and the Broadway stage. He was a gay man whose partner of fifty years, Dr. Eugene Glynn, a psychiatrist who specialized in treating young people, died in 2007. Sendak died at 83 on May 8, 2012.

“All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.”—Maurice Sendak

Watch one of Sendak’s last interviews with Stephen Colbert (January 24, 2012). Here’s part one of two:

 

That was too good not to include part two (January 25, 2012):