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My friend Maurice

Photo by Richard Asch

Maurice Sendak died last night at the age of 83. There will be many forthcoming tributes to this great artist, including quite a lot of material by and about him from The Horn Book Magazine, which we will be posting on our website for you as we can. But I wanted to take a minute just to remember what an almost impossibly magnetic person he was to be with and talk to–an omnivorous and eloquent consumer of art in all forms, and a wicked mimic who had the most impressive command of obscene language that I have ever heard. In a lot of ways, he was a Big Baby, a grownup still obdurately tied to childhood, making him frequently impossible but also possessed with the honesty and passion of kids who haven’t yet learned to moderate or disguise their feelings. Richard and I had a long dinner with him last fall, when I was there to talk to his Sendak fellows (including Sergio Ruzzier, who has written a great account of that experience), and he ate with gusto all the things that were bad for him (steak, wine, chocolate), regaling us between bites with stories and very firmly held opinions. It’s a great memory to be left with.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Thank you for sharing your memory, Roger. My condolences. My youth services colleague and I were just getting everything ready for the day when my supervisor came in with the news. We stopped what we were doing in order to honor his memory in our own small way by putting together a display of his books. Planning to rewatch the interview with Stephen Colbert when I get home. I’m hoping I can find the NPR interview in which he discussed his collaboration with Tony Kushner on Brundibar. It’s been years since I’ve listened to it, but I remember that it was an extraordinary interview.

  2. Elizabeth Law says:

    I was thinking this morning about how huge and actually impossible to measure Sendak’s impact was. Long before Really Rosie or the Carole King songs, we had the Nutshell Library in our house. And for about 40 years, whenever my sister or I had a big piece of news, my dad would say “Whoopie once, whoopie twice!” It had become part of his lexicon.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Roger. We missed out on interviewing Sendak for Library of the Early Mind — timing wasn’t right. My one big regret from an otherwise great experience…

  4. Reminded of your earlier post about the Payne auditorium, I’d put Sendak’s name on my wall.

  5. Gail Lockman says:

    Terry Gross did a wonderful interview with Maurice Sendak on Fresh Air fairly recently, December 29, 2011. Sweet interview, very revealing, but lovely. They both enjoyed each other’s conversation. We were just bystanders lucky enough to eavesdrop.

  6. Thanks for your heartfelt thoughts about your dear friend, Maurice. Where The Wild Things Are has already and will stand the test of time, and though I didn’t know him, Max gave us some clear insight into who Sendak was as a little boy, and perhaps who he ultimately was.

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  1. […] still remember Roger Sutton’s 2003 Horn Book interview with Maurice. (Note: Roger has a brief tribute to his friend at his blog today, the best part being where he describes Sendak as “an […]

  2. […] York Times, the Rosenbach Museum & Library, and Roger Sutton’s blog. (Roger’s post has been updated with a beautiful […]

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