This charming picture book (48 pages) was published in November of 1988 by Harper Collins. The book takes you to a magical forest. Melissa read Where the Wild Things Are and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
With just 338 words and the irresistible invitation —’Let the wild rumpus start’ — this beloved picture book transports us to a magical world where walls turn into forests, monsters dance around a fire, and a little boy can become king.
Max is a classic antihero: He’s frustrated, lashes out in anger, and can’t understand why he can’t just do what he wants to do. And yet, we can’t help but want to give him a big hug. Dressed in his wolf costume, chasing the dog, and sent to bed without supper, he’s in a sorry state. But soon, his room has transformed into a jungle, and he sails across an ocean to an island ruled by beasts — where eye-rolling and teeth-gnashing abound. Max revels in his new-found freedom and feral friends, but eventually, he realizes that home is where he belongs.
Maurice Sendak wrote this timeless story in 1963, and the following year, it was awarded the Caldecott Medal for ‘most distinguished American picture book for children.’ It’s been adapted into an animated short, a children’s opera, and a live-action film. To date, it’s sold 19 million copies worldwide. Not bad for a book that was never intended to be about monsters at all.
Sendak planned the original story to be about a boy who escapes to a land of wild horses, but then realized he didn’t know how to draw a horse. His editor — inspired by the Yiddish expression vilde chaya (wild animals) — suggested ‘wild things,’ so Sendak replaced the horses with drawings of exaggerated characters, based on his relatives. Every week, Sendak’s family would gather for Sunday lunch in Brooklyn, where his aunts and uncles would pinch his cheeks and tell him he ‘looked so good we could eat you up.’ He described them as having crazy faces and wild eyes, the very characteristics that make the monsters in his book so distinctive (and so cute). When Sendak wrote the opera in 1983, he finally named the monsters: Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile, and Bernard, in honor of those cheek-pinching aunts and uncles.
The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said, ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything. — Maurice Sendak
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is © 2021 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.