PS 118 has been named the Maurice Sendak Community School after author-illustrator Maurice Sendak. Sendak’s creativity and innovation changed the face of illustrated children’s literature with books such as Where the Wild Things Are (Winner of the Caledecott Medal), In the Night Kitchen, and The Nutshell Library. We are thrilled to honor a great Brooklyn native and in doing so, we hope to inspire our children to find their own creative expression.
Sendak is generally considered the most important children’s book creator of the 20th century. He illustrated over 100 books in his lifetime, 20 of which he also wrote. He won almost every top honor in his profession, including the Caldecott Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. In 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded Sendak the National Medal of the Arts.
Sendak is best known for turning the idea of the stereotypical picture book character on its head. The parents and children in his books are real and imperfect. Sendak grew up during the Great Depression and some of his books tackled topics rarely addressed in children’s literature, including poverty, homelessness and the Holocaust. He once said, “You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them. ”
Sendak’s artistic contributions go well beyond children’s literature. He produced a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and adapted Where the Wild Things Are for opera. In 2006, he collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner on a restaging and picture book adaptation of Hans Krasa’s children’s opera “Brundibar,” which is known for being performed by children imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp. Sendak was a member of the National Board of Advisors for the Children’s Television Workshop and helped develop the Sesame Street television series in its early stages.
Sendak also collaborated with Carole King to create the animated musical Really Rosie, based on a girl he observed singing and dancing on her stoop during his childhood. Set in Brooklyn, Really Rosie celebrates a typical summer day for a group of kids living on Avenue P. It was later produced as an off-Broadway show and is now regularly performed by children’s theater groups.
Sendak passed away in May 2012. PS 118 is the first school in New York to be named for him.