Maurice Sendak, the author and illustrator of the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are, died this week at age 83. His name may be unfamiliar to those who haven't read his books to wide-eyed pre-schoolers, but his art has been a part of mainstream culture since the 1950s. His cross-hatched lines and the large faces of his characters -- monsters or children -- are instantly recognizable.
Mr. Sendak didn't believe in coddling young readers. He endured the Depression as a child and the loss of family to the Holocaust, and allowed the darkness of the 20th century to seep into his work. None of his illustrated stories, no matter how fantastical, retreats from reality.
Because Mr. Sendak never condescended to children, his work often drew the attention of censors. He won some of the highest awards for children's literature, yet religious groups often banned his work as morally corrupting.
If children's literature can hold its own in a world of e-books, Mr. Sendak will have a place of honor. Where the wild children with untamed imaginations are, you will find his work.