Widely considered the most important children’s book illustrator of the 20th century, Maurice Sendak upended the staid and sanitized tradition of American children’s literature with haunting pictures and plotlines that plunged into the dark recesses of the human psyche.

A frail child who spent much of his youth bedridden, Sendak discovered a love of books early, and was inspired to become an illustrator after watching Disney’s Fantasia at the age of 12. Growing up Jewish, gay, and lower class in a world punctuated by the Depression, World War II and the Holocaust, Sendak’s work delved into the complex inner lives unique to children.

Though best known for writing and illustrating the career-making, genre-breaking 1963 masterpiece Where the Wild Things Are, his art also graced the work of countless other esteemed authors – including Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, William Blake and Hans Christian Andersen.

In a 2000 interview with Martha Stewart, Sendak brought along well-worn copies of the three books that most impacted his legendary life and work, and extolled on the immersive power of literature:

“Reading is a physical act. A book should be beautiful. Every book that’s manufactured should have textures and qualities and smells as though it were a toy, as though it were something precious.”

Explore Maurice Sendak’s most beloved books below, and complement with Hayao Miyazaki’s 50 favorite children’s stories.

Mickey Mouse in Pygmy Land by Walt Disney

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (also rec’d by Hayao MiyazakiJohn LennonPatti Smith & Rose McGowan)

(via YouTube)

Categories: Artists Writers