I met Maurice Sendak almost 25 years ago, at a printing company in New Jersey. We were there for the same reasons: he to oversee the printing of a poster for Dear Mili, and me for a picture book: The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau. When we were introduced, he was looking over the large printed sheet for Clousseau. He liked what he saw and said, "You must be a fan of Edy LeGrand." I'd never heard of him. Maurice scanned the sheet again. "Well, you must be familiar with Andre Helle!" I wrote both names down. Days later at the New York Public Library, I discovered that I'd been channeling a couple of celebrated French art deco illustrators from the early 1900s. Only Maurice could have made the connection.
A few weeks later, I went to visit him in Connecticut. We were total opposites—in appearance, temprament, background—but we hit it off. Our main thing in common, besides admiring each other's work, was that we shared a love for that unique art form: the picture book.
That fall, Felix Clousseau was published and I sent him a copy. He called me, very pleased, and told me he thought it should win the Caldecott Medal. Then he paused and said, "Well, no, to be honest, I want Mili to win—but if it doesn't—I hope it's Felix." Who could argue with that?