Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wonderful Books from the Past: Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak is best known for Where the Wild Things Are. The book had a slightly tumultuous beginning. First, the book was originally supposed to feature horses as the inhabitants of Max's adventure land, until Sendak's editor learned that Sendak was not the most gifted equine artist possible. Still having faith in the project, Sendak's editor suggested that, even if Sendak could not draw horses, he could at least draw "things." Thus, the wild things were born. Humorously, the wild things are all named after and based on caricatures of relatives who frequently visited Sendak's childhood home for supper on Sundays.

Sendak introduces Max, the protagonist of the story, in the thralls of a tantrum that provokes his mother to call him a "wild thing" and send him to sit alone in his room wearing a monster costume and without a dinner to eat. The anger and frustration he feels is met with admiration when his room transforms into a jungle and he travels to the land of "wild things." Crowned "King Wild Thing" by the natives, Max enjoys trouncing around the land with the wild things until a waft of a home-cooked meal sparks a hankering for home, where "someone loved him best of all." When Max returns home, his dinner is waiting in his room, still hot.

All children can relate to uncontrollable rage during an especially critical tantrum, allowing them to identify with Max's wild side. And, for most children, the feeling of the first hug after a fight with their parents borders on bliss every time. This easily-relatable story line allows children to climb into Max's magical boat alongside him. Children empathize with Max's childish rage, travel to the land of the wild things, cause rumpus with the monsters, and enjoy the warmth of the peace-offering of dinner alongside Max. I think the ease with which children can simultaneously relate to the story and relish the richly imaginative qualities of the book and its illustrations make this book an incredible work of children's literature.

Indulge your Wild Side.

Happy Reading!


  1. Elin, thanks for the post! I enjoyed the background information you gave about the story, it's difficult to picture Where the Wild Things Are with horses as the creatures! What a fun background story!

  2. This is a classic book that does a great job of getting into the mind of a child and exploring just what a child's imagination can think up. Thanks for the great recommendation!