Maurice Bernard Sendak was born on June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of three children. His parents were Polish Jews who had come to the United States before the start of World War I. His first professional job as an illustrator (while he was still in high school) involved adapting the "Mutt and Jeff" newspaper comic strip to a comic book format. He later worked as a window-display director for New York's famous toy store, F.A.O. Schwartz, while attending night school at the Art Students League. In 1950, Ursula Nordstrom, children's book editor at Harper and Brothers, gave him his first chance to illustrate a children's book. His talents were soon in demand. He wrote his first book, Kenny's Window, in 1956 and went on to become a prolific author-illustrator. Sendak is noted for his zany characters and fantastic themes. In 1964 he won the prestigious Caldecott medal for his picture book Where The Wild Things Are. Although occasionally Sendak's work has provoked controversy, he has become one of the best known and beloved creators of children's books and has received many awards. His works include Chicken Soup with Rice; In the Night Kitchen; Outside Over There; Higglety Pigglety Pop; and We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy. In 1970, he was the first American to receive the Hans Christian Andersen International Medal and in 1997 he received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton. Characters from two of Sendak's books were the basis of an animated television special, Really Rosie, which first aired in 1975. Sendak was also the set designer and lyricist for a subsequent off-Broadway musical of the same title, with music composed by Carol King. He was the lyricist, as well as the set and costume designer, for the original production of an opera based on Where The Wild Things Are (with music by Oliver Knussen) in 1980. In addition, Sendak has designed sets and costumes for performances of operas by Mozart, Prokofiev, and other classical composers.