It might seem obvious to anyone who knows me, but Maurice Sendak is my hero. Like few other illustrators, he has had a huge influence on my art style and my persistence.
I remember reading about his life and learning that most of his childhood was spent in bed, recovering, and drawing. A lot of my childhood was also spent in hospitals, waiting rooms, bed and other really boring, lonely places. My mother and I would hand a drawing back and forth between us adding weird little bits and trying to outdo each other. (She also read me Agatha Christie stories!)
Sendak's stories are all so creepy and sad, but that's what is so appealing to me - and other kids. He knew what we were feeling and what we were worrying about and then turned it all into characters and magical places we could understand.
As a parent, reading the stories to my son, I was hit by all the "realities" of his stories. All the things I just accepted as a child, I suddenly noticed as being sad, as an adult. For example... in Higglety-Pigglety-Pop... as a kid, I understood that Jennie, the dog, wanted more out of life and was willing to give up everything to have an adventure. When she died, I cried (I still do), but it was all part of the story and her adventure. After all, she finally gets what she wants, in the end. As an adult, I can't help but over analyze and feel depressed. I bet there are a few of you who have only read this book as an adult who may be thinking, "What does she mean, the dog dies?!"
Sendak, my imaginary mentor, cleared the path for weird, sickly kids with overactive imaginations! Hee hee. I am very grateful that I was able to meet him and that he lived such a long and interesting life. He is immortal through his art and his stories. But he will be missed.
There is a great article in the New York Times if you would like to read more about Maurice Sendak's life.