Where the Wild Things are

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Where the Wild Things Are By Maurice Sendak, Illustrated by Maurice SendakWhere the Wild Things are‘, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, is one of the most popular picture books of the last fifty years. Having won the Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year in 1964, it doesn’t seem dated at all forty-five years later and maintains its appeal to children of a wide age range.

Max, a rather small boy, dresses up in his white wolf suit and gets into so much mischief that he is sent to bed with nothing to eat. First a forest grows in his bedroom, and then an ocean appears with a private boat for Max to sail in. After a year he comes to the place where the wild things are. Unabashed by their roaring, gnashing of teeth and showing of claws, he tames them and becomes their king. Having had great fun with them, he sends them to bed without any supper. Max then realises how lonely and hungry he is and insists on sailing home. Back in his room after another long journey, he finds his supper there, ready and waiting for him.

Does Max’s imagination simply run riot, or does he fall asleep for a while and dream about the wild things? Whatever the answer may be, almost every child can identify with Max. The desire to dress up and be naughty, the defiance on being sent to bed without supper: Max will arouse children’s sympathy. He becomes a hero when he shows no fear on encountering the wild things and is crowned as their king. He thus becomes the all-powerful one who can send them to bed hungry. What a position to be in. Yet he is still a little boy, and although adventure is a wonderful thing when it’s over he wants the comforts of home. It’s all so reassuring: you can go home when you’re ready and food will be waiting there.

Maurice Sendak’s illustrations for ‘Where the Wild Things are‘ make a huge contribution to the book. Before the story begins, the title page shows a courageous Max chasing two wild things that are much bigger than him. One of them has a stripy jumper, scaly legs, long claws, a ridiculously long tail, and horns. The jumper just takes the edge off his potential to scare. Max is seen sailing the ocean and encountering a sea dragon, dancing in the moonlight, and hanging from a tree alongside the wild things. Colours are muted pinks, browns, yellows, greens and blues. The brightest thing is Max’s sailing boat with its red hull and yellow sails. Many of the pictures feature painstaking cross-hatching, including the entire double-page spread of jungle flowers at the beginning and end of the book.

“The combination of fantasy, adventure, mischief and finally seeking home comforts have made ‘Where the Wild Things are‘ a classic picture book”

The design of the book as regards the balance of text and illustrations is extremely fascinating. On the first eight double pages, the text appears on a white background on the left-hand side whilst the picture is on the right. The first picture takes up less than half a page, but the size of the illustrations increases gradually until on the eighth page it covers the whole of the right-hand side as well as about a third of the left-hand side. On the following three double pages, the picture spreads right across the width and the white border at the bottom becomes narrower and narrower. The text appears in this border on both sides of the page. There are then three double pages that consist entirely of illustrations that show Max and the wild things enjoying their rumpus. These present an ideal opportunity for the child that has been listening up until then to fill in this part of the story or talk about it to the adult who has been reading. The last few pages of the book reverse the process of the first section, until we have a white page with text on the left and a whole-page picture on the right. The final page of the story has just a half sentence of text and no picture at all, as if to finish on a teasing note.

Where the Wild Things are‘ is a fantastic story to read aloud to children from the age of three upwards, and by the time children are able to read themselves it is likely that they will still find this book interesting. The fact that the text is printed throughout in a bold font on a white background makes it very clear to see. There are never more than three lines of text on a page, so a young reader will not be discouraged. There are, however, some extremely long sentences that run from one page over to the next.

Children who enjoyed this book when it was first published in 1963 have no doubt taken pleasure in reading it again to their own children, and perhaps even one or two grandchildren by now. The combination of fantasy, adventure, mischief and finally seeking home comforts have made ‘Where the Wild Things are‘ a classic picture book that is likely to remain a favourite for many generations yet to come.

48 pages


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Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

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Written by frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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