Jeff Jensen
October 09, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

When Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963, it was praised by critics — and condemned by some parents shocked by its unruly hero. ”I went to a bookstore to sign books, and there was a picket line of women,” says Sendak, who wanted to create a fantastical portrait of his own childhood. The author, 81, has health problems, so Jonze made frequent visits to his Connecticut home before shooting the film. ”I didn’t need a movie,” says Sendak. ”What I needed was a relationship with other artists. Friendship with these people was essential for my sanity.” Sendak has published many books, including another certifiable classic, In the Night Kitchen. ”The subject of children is something that overwhelms me, and I feel as though I have barely scratched the surface,” he says. ”Being as old as I am is a pain in the ass. I want more time!”

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