Stephen Colbert, Kevin Smith Lead Industry Mourning of Maurice Sendak

9:45 AM PST 05/08/2012 by Eriq Gardner
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Stephen Colbert, Kevin Smith, and others are commemorating Sendak's life upon word that he died at age 83 from complications of a stroke in Danbury, Connecticut.

As news spread quickly on Tuesday that Maurice Sendak had died at the age of 83, fans of the gifted storyteller passed around favorite quotes and intricately detailed letters by the author. One Sendak quote from an interview last year given to NPR stood out: "There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready," he said.

The author of books like Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, Sendak was celebrated for his revolutionary approach to children's books -- an unflinching look at the imagination and often horrors of childhood.

Stephen Colbert, whose interviews with Sendak became one of the most popular segments ever on his Comedy Central show, says the children's author had certain attributes that made him special.

"Maurice Sendak was strikingly honest," says Colbert. "His art gave us a fantastical but unromanticized reminder of what childhood truly felt like. We are all honored to have been briefly invited into his world."

Others agree.

"This was a guy who did everything untraditionaly," says director Kevin Smith. "He knew kids were into thrilling and scary. He was like John Hughes. He had a way of talking to kids that respected them and whose message was to celebrate our differences. He said, 'There's nothing wrong with being different. Go ahead and be ourselves.'"

STORY: Maurice Sendak's Death Prompts Outpouring of Mourning and Tributes on Twitter

Smith, who counts Really Rosie as a personal favorite, is one of the many storytellers influenced by Sendak's approach, which to borrow the name of Smith's production company, was much about viewing things a bit askew. Sendak's own inspirations came from a wide range of sources, from the movie Fantasia to the music of Mozart. His artwork adorned books including Leo Tolstoy, William Blake, and Hans Christian Andersen and Sendak seemed to take great joy in what he did. After his passing, one of Sendak's decorated letters became a much shared item on social media.

His great work, including more than 50 illustrated books, is now being remembered.

"Maurice Sendak captured childhood in brilliant stories and drawings which will live forever,” said Richard Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic Inc.

"Sendak taught me, like he taught a lot of kids my age, to embrace the macabre and the mysterious, to gleefully upset the rules," tweeted Colon Moloy, lead singer of the Decemberists.

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