Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are has been a beloved addition to children’s literature for decades for many good reason. It is a story that speaks to the heart of every child, and with its original drawings and it’s wording simplistically brilliant, there are few books that are its equal.
What’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ About?
We meet Max, a little boy dressed in his wolf suit, up one night making mischief of one kind or another. His Mother calls him “WILD THING!” and he responds with all the vigor of a stubbornly naughty child “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” As a result, he is sent to bed without supper. As the night wears on, Max’s room turns into a jungle, with an ocean tumbling by and a boat made just for him bobbing about. He gets in it and sails, and sails, until he reaches a land with terrible monsters, a land where the wild things live. They try to frighten Max, but he tames them, and becomes their king. It seems like a wonderful thing…until something calls him home.
What Are The Illustrations Like?
The illustrations are wonderful in only the way they can be in such a classic book. They are lively and match the story in such a way that it all completely comes to life. The Wild Things, their land, Max’s room, everything, is all depicted in Sendak’s unique manner of drawing, a manner that both brings back memories, and creates them. In 1970, in recognition of the excellence of his entire body of work, Maurice Sendak was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Illustrator Award.
What Can We Take Away From It?
Max throws a fit and then heads off on a flight of fancy to indulge in his wild side. At first all seems well, but as he masters the Wild Things (representations of his unruliness and tumultuous emotions) and time goes on he begins to get hit with the reality of what he really wants. He is called back home by the promise of parental love, shown in the form of ‘a supper that is still hot.’
All children go on Max’s journey at some point in their own way. This story is a form of the earliest self of each human being. This book speaks to children in a language that they can or will understand. It hits on something that is very rarely put into words. It gives them an example of how to balance fear and comfort, how to manage anger and discipline, what is truly right, and how sometimes we have to take a trip to the ‘wild side’ to find out what is best in reality.
Even as adults we all remember that feeling of throwing a tantrum, the anger and frustration that welled up and spilled over, and the infuriating calm of your parents as they disciplined you in one way or another. And then the things you made up in your mind as only a child with an active imagination can to deal with your situation, places to escape to. For children to see this experience put into book form like Where The Wild Things Are is something really special-even if though don’t quite know why yet.
Overall Feeling of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’
I believe it is one of the best children’s books ever written. It has changed the lives of children and children’s literature forever. When Where The Wild Things are was originally published in 1963, it was banned from by librarians for being “too frightening” and by psychologists as “too dark.” But children embraced it. It finally told the true story of what it was and how it felt to be a young child. It broke down the stigma that children’s books should be completely sugar coated. His characters were real. I think it took the world by surprise because it struck such a true chord, it reminds us of the cantankerous child that we all were at some point. This story has an incredibly grounding effect on its readers because it is so real to everyone, it is a story we still hold dear because there is, or was, a wild thing in all of us.