Today’s GLBT History Month Icon: Author Maurice Sendak

Today’s GLBT History Month icon is Maurice Sendak. Born June 10, 1928, Sendak is a renowned author and children’s book illustrator perhaps most famous for “Where the Wild Things Are” which was adapted for the big screen in 2009.

From Equality Forum:

Hailed the Picasso of children’s literature, Maurice Sendak has inspired the imagination of readers young and old for more than 40 years. A prolific author and illustrator of children’s books, he has published over 100 works of fiction. Sendak has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Caldecott Medal, the National Book Award and the National Medal of Arts.

Born in Brooklyn, New York to Jewish immigrants, Sendak’s early childhood was plagued with illness. He spent most of his time indoors where he satisfied his imagination with books. Having discovered his creative voice at a young age, Sendak found a perfect outlet in drawing and illustration. At the age of 12, after seeing Disney’s “Fantasia,” an awestruck Sendak decided to become an illustrator.

PBS calls Sendak “one of the most consistently inventive and challenging voices in children’s literature. His books and productions are among the best-loved imaginative works of their time.” Sendak is best known for his book, “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963) which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. In 2009, it was adapted into a critically acclaimed film directed by Spike Jonze.

Despite a celebrated career as an illustrator, Sendak’s work has often generated controversy. Over the years, his children’s book, “In the Night Kitchen,” (1970) has been censored in several states due to illustrations deemed inappropriate. “Where the Wild Things Are” has been condemned by conservatives who claim the book involves witchcraft and supernatural elements. “I thought my career was over,” recalls Sendak. “The kids saved me. They loved the books because they are not afraid of life.”

In addition to writing and illustrating, Sendak has created award-winning set designs for dance, opera and theater, including Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Prokofiev’s “Love for Three Oranges” and Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker.” In the 1970’s he donated nearly 10,000 works of art, photographs, manuscripts and books to the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.

For decades, Sendak hid his sexuality from the public fearing it would ruin his career. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.” In a 2008 interview with the New York Times, Sendak opened up about his private life and revealed his 50-year relationship with [psychoanalyst] Eugene Glynn, who passed away in 2007.

In 2009, filmmakers Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze teamed up to produce “Tell Them What You Want,” a documentary about the life of Maurice Sendak.

Below is a short interview with Sendak in which he talks about the film adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are”:


  • “American Masters: About Maurice Sendak.” 24 Aug. 2007.
  • “A Conversation with Maurice Sendak.” National Public Radio 19 May 2010.
  • “Interview: Maurice Sendak.” 19 May 2010.


Articles about Maurice Sendak:


RobynRobyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa5 years ago

He will be sadly missed.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

Good Post. Thanx

Ronnie M.
Ronnie Mekler7 years ago

What an awesome man!

ruth a.
ruth a7 years ago

How did I miss this great author!?! Must head off to library!

Dan(iel) M.
Dan(iel) M7 years ago

Thanks for the posting Steve.

Just goes to show, "Don't judge the book by its cover". (pun intended)

Really am enjoying the series on LGBT icons.

Maureen M.
Maureen M7 years ago

Many years ago Where the Wild Things are was my children's favourite book and the children in the classes that I taught...and mine. Still the best kids books ever written imho.

Jacquie B.
Jacqueline B7 years ago

I can understand why he stayed in the closet--he got death threats for Where the Wild Things Are from people who said the beast was the Anti-Christ. He suffered much anti-Semitism. As a Jewish, children's librarian, who also happens to be a lesbian, I have been subject to prejudice.

Barbara V.
Barbara V7 years ago

I'm happy to say that I met Maurice Sendak some years back, as he was a patient of a doctor I used to work for. Nice guy with an incredible genius. Who cares if he's gay! He's been a blessing and a delight to children all over the world!

Diana S.
Diana S7 years ago

I too did not know Maurice Sendak was gay before now. I have loved his illustrations, his books, and his opera set designs, my entire life. What a talented individual!

Allan Y.
.7 years ago

I had no idea Maurice was gay. As a children's librarian, I have loved his books for years. A fantastic author.