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A Conversation with Maurice Sendak

His favorite subject? "Scaring children."

His most treasured possessions? Mickey Mouse memorabilia.

His best buddy? A boisterous German Shepherd named for Herman Melville.

This is Maurice Sendak at 76, as Jennifer Ludden found after a trip into the New England woods to interview the famed author and illustrator of books for young readers, best known for 1964's Where the Wild Things Are.

"Maurice Sendak looks kinda like a Wild Thing," Ludden notes. "Curly hair on a balding head... a glint in the eye... yet a softening smile around the mouth."

But Sendak's latest published work isn't scary at all. It's a re-illustration of a 1948 book by one of his mentors, Ruth Krauss, called Bears. The drawings put Max, the hero of Wild Things, in slightly friendlier surroundings. But he still finds himself in the middle of an adventure.

Krauss, best known for The Carrot Seed and husband Crockett Johnson, creator of Harold and the Purple Crayon, met Sendak at 22, after he had suffered a series of rejection from publishers.

His big break came through illustrating the Krauss book A Hole Is to Dig. The little volume of definitions features a softer, simpler Sendak.

Alice Winkler produced this piece.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.