The Maurice Sendak Foundation, responding to a lawsuit filed by the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, is denying that the late author and illustrator wanted the Rosenbach to become steward of his legacy by continuing to display his work after his death.

The point-by-point response filed in Fairfield County, Conn., probate court recognizes that Sendak and the Rosenbach had a close relationship for many years. But, in language suggestive of a rift, the foundation says "that relationship became strained over the past approximately ten years of his life."

Sendak Foundation lawyers acknowledge that Sendak's will contains language about the author's intentions for the Rosenbach's continued role as a venue after his death, but they do not explain why this language does not add up to Sendak wanting the Rosenbach to continue displaying his work.

Representatives of both sides either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to do so.

The Sendak Foundation also denies that Sendak's will bequeathed certain rare books to the Rosenbach, repeating the assertion that Sendak did not intend for several volumes by Beatrix Potter and William Blake, estimated to be worth millions, to end up at the Rosenbach.

The Rosenbach says that the Sendak estate plans to sell certain books to raise money for the foundation, which intends to open a museum and study center in Sendak's longtime Connecticut home.

It also says that the executors of his will, because of their overlapping membership with the foundation's board had an "inherent conflict of interest or otherwise . . . are incapable or unwilling to faithfully carry out the directives of the will bequeathing all of Mr. Sendak's rare edition books to the Rosenbach."

In its response, the foundation acknowledges that it is considering the sale of certain books through Christie's - pending a ruling on the ownership dispute - but denies any conflict of interest.

The Rosenbach suit asks a Connecticut judge to compel the Sendak Foundation to strike a deal for the continued display of Sendak items at the Delancey Place museum and library, and to turn over all 800 volumes in question. So far, it has given the Rosenbach 349 books.

Though the two groups disagree on several points, they may be able to put one matter behind them.

In its suit, the Rosenbach said that the Sendak estate claimed that the books by the Peter Rabbit author, as children's books, could not be considered rare edition books, and therefore fell outside Sendak's wish that the Rosenbach receive all of his rare edition books.

"A book that happens to be a book primarily intended for or read by children is still a book," the Rosenbach asserts in its Nov. 3 lawsuit.

The response: The foundation said it could "admit that a children's book is still a book."

pdobrin@phillynews.com

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