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Maurice Sendak showed us 'Where The Wild Things Are'

Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated the acclaimed 'Where The Wild Things Are,' along with other children's books. He passed away early Tuesday in Connecticut.

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Sendak, who did his work in a studio at the Ridgefield, Conn., home he moved into in the early 1960s, never embraced high-tech toys. He did, however, have a collection of Mickey Mouse and other Walt Disney toys displayed throughout the house.

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When director Spike Jonez made the movie version of "Where the Wild Things Are," Sendak said he urged the director to remember his view that childhood isn't all sweetness and light. And he was happy with the result.

"In plain terms, a child is a complicated creature who can drive you crazy" Sendak told the AP in 2009. "There's a cruelty to childhood, there's an anger. And I did not want to reduce Max to the trite image of the good little boy that you find in too many books."

Sendak's own life was clouded by the shadow of the Holocaust. He had said that the events of World War II were the root of his raw and honest artistic style.

Born in 1928 and raised in Brooklyn, Sendak said he remembered the tears shed by his Jewish-Polish immigrant parents as they'd get news of atrocities and the deaths of relatives and friends. "My childhood was about thinking about the kids over there (in Europe). My burden is living for those who didn't," he told the AP.

Sendak, his sister Natalie, and late brother Jack, were the last of the family on his father's side since his other relatives didn't move to the United States before the war. The only family member Sendak really knew on his mother's side was his grandmother.

Sendak didn't go to college and worked a string of odd jobs until he went to work at the famous toy store FAO Schwarz as a window dresser in 1948. But it was his childhood dream to be an illustrator and his break came in 1951 when he was commissioned to do the art for "Wonderful Farm" by Marcel Ayme.

By 1957 he was writing his own books.

Sendak received the international Hans Christian Andersen medal for illustration in 1970. In 1983 he won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association.

But it was "Brundibar," a folk tale about two children who need to earn enough money to buy milk for their sick mother that Sendak completed when he was 75, that he was most proud of. "This is the closest thing to a perfect child I've ever had."

Sendak stayed away from the book-signing bandwagon that many other authors use for publicity; he said he couldn't stand the thought of parents dragging children to wait on line for hours to see a little old man in thick glasses.

"Kids don't know about best sellers," he said. "They go for what they enjoy. They aren't star chasers and they don't suck up. It's why I like them."

RELATED: 10 best picture books for children

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