The creator of "Where the Wild Things Are" and other dark children's fantasy books died Tuesday at a hospital in Danbury, Conn. He had suffered a stroke on Friday. "Where the Wild Things Are," published in 1963, became one of the bestselling children's books of all time. By the time it came out, he had already been called "the Picasso of children's books" by Time magazine, and the "Norman Mailer of children's books" by the Los Anteles Times' Digby Diehl. From the LAT obit:
The work, published in 1963, was a startling departure from the sweetness and innocence that ruled children's literature. "Wild Things" tapped into the fears of childhood and sent its main character -- an unruly boy in a wolf costume -- into a menacing forest to tame the wild beasts of his imagination.
Librarians banned the book as too frightening. Psychologists and many adults condemned it for being too dark. But a 1964 Los Angeles Times review echoed many critics: The "aggressive flight of fantasy" was "the best thing of its kind in many a year."
By then, "Wild Things" had won the Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children. The author began receiving mail from young fans captivated by the grinning monsters Sendak said he modeled after the obnoxious relatives who populated the Sundays of his youth.
Sendak with Stephen Colbert comes highly recommended: