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When We All Joined Max Where The Wild Things Are

Entertainment | April 22, 2022

Source: (Wikipedia).

In 1963, Maurice Sendak released Where the Wild Things Are. The writer and illustrator won the Caldecott Medal in 1964, and by 2009, the book had sold over 19 million copies worldwide. It has also been adapted into a live action film and, believe it or not, into an opera. It has also inspired music and was spoofed in an episode of The Simpsons, “The Girl Who Slept Too Little.”

The story is about Max, a child who dresses up in a wolf costume and causes chaos in the house, so his mother sends him to bed without supper. She calls him “WILD THING!” He responds, “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” and when he goes to his room, it is transformed; Max sets sail and is hailed king of the Wild Things. After they enjoy a romp, he sends them to bed without supper. A bit homesick, he decides to head home, giving up his regal title. The Wild Things don’t want him to go, but he sails away, returning to his bedroom, where he finds a hot supper waiting for him. 

From Kenny's Window. Source: (Pinterest).

It Was The Second Book He Wrote

Sendak got his start as an illustrator, but in 1956, he published Kenny’s Window, his first book as the sole author. He started to work on his second book, tentatively titled “land of wild horses.” However, Sendak started to create the illustrations and realized that he couldn’t draw horses. Hence, he started to draw more ambiguous “wild things.” At the suggestion of his editor, Sendak simply changed the horses to be Wild Things, a term which came from the Yiddish expression “vilde Chaya.” The term applies to rowdy children. 

Source: (WikiArt).

The Wild Things Were Based On Sendak's Relatives

The illustrations for the Wild Things themselves were derived from Sendak’s own life; they were caricatures of his aunts and uncles he had drawn when he was young. These relatives visited his family weekly, on Sunday afternoons. Sendak saw these poor Jewish immigrants from Poland as “all crazy—crazy faces and wild eyes,” as well as “big and yellow teeth.” When they visited, they pinched his cheeks, and told him he “looked so good we could eat you up.” As a child, Sendak only saw them as “grotesques.” He continued to see his creations as his relatives, naming the monsters Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile, and Bernard when he worked with Oliver Knussen on the opera adaptation of the book in 1983.

Source: (Literary Hub).

Reactions To His Book Changed Over Time

According to Sendak, as reported in The Art of Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are is one of a trilogy focused on children’s growth, survival, and fury, and is about “how children master various feelings—danger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy—and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives.”

When the book was first released, it had negative reviews. However, eventually, critics relaxed their views, and ever since then it has had acclaim. As a testament to its lasting popularity, the National Education Association listed the book as one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children” based on a 2007 online poll and the book was number four on the New York Public Library list of “Top Check Outs of All Time.”

Source: (Pinterest).

It Is Still Controversial

This is not to say that the book is free of controversy, as it has been banned; for some adults, Max’s punishment was a bit too harsh, while for others, the supernatural themes were problematic. According to a column in The Ladies Home Journal in 1969, the book is “psychologically damaging for 3- and 4- year-olds.” However, as one critic noted, it is “simply the epitome of a picture book” and stated that Sendak “rises above the rest in part because he is so subversive.”

Tags: Children

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Linda Speckhals


When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.