Where the Wild Things Are and Other Notable Works by Maurice Sendak

Posted on March 22, 2018

by Eric P

Another classic title on the Library’s 101 Picture Book Challenge list is Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” a timeless tale of temper tantrums and monster islands.

There are loads of great moments in Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book “Where the Wild Things Are,” but maybe the most prominent of these is when the wild rumpus starts.

Picture of a wild rumpus from Where the Wild Things Are

When I was a little kid we owned a copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” – I still have the frayed, loose-spined, well-thumbed copy somewhere – and if you were to page through this old volume today you would find that, on one of the two-page rumpus spreads, I, well, drew on the pages. Like, a lot. I assaulted them with a frenzied precipitation of brown magic-marker blots, a torrential fusillade, as though the Dionysian energy of the rumpus was so infectious I just couldn’t help myself, I had to get involved somehow, had to participate in its savage revelry, and since I didn’t have a boat or wolf pajamas (or, apparently, access to more than one color of magic marker), I engaged with the wildness in the only way I knew how – inartful, destructive, monochromatic.

Picture of another wild rumpus from Where the Wild Things Are

This didn’t go over well. Mine was a household, like many households, in which the defacing of books was a crime, only slightly less heinous than embezzlement or grand theft auto, and there were consequences. (It goes without saying that I don’t now encourage this behavior, especially with library books, so don’t suggest otherwise, especially to my boss.) Not surprisingly, however satisfying it might have been to vandalize those pages at the time (and it may or may not have been – I don’t actually remember doing it, though the evidence is inescapable), it marred my future enjoyment of the book. It’s hard to lose yourself completely in a rumpus when Max and the wild things look like they’re being drenched in a monsoon of chocolate pudding. But it’s some kind of a testament to the vitality of this book about misbehavior and impetuous rebellion that it drove me to such transgressive and self-sabotaging extremes.

More Notable Picture Books by Maurice Sendak

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak
Pierre by Maurice Sendak
We are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy by Maurice Sendak
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - book cover

As an adult, there are Sendak books I appreciate more. I love “In the Night Kitchen,” with its dream logic and its loving allusions to classic film comedy and Winsor McCay. I dig the danger of “Outside Over There” and the they-killed-Kenny perversity of “Pierre” and the social consciousness of “We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy.”

But we’ve included “Wild Things” on the 101 Picture Book Challenge because it’s an uncompromising masterpiece, in which the rage of childhood is palpable and transformative, and monsters don’t have warm hearts of gold (“We’ll eat you up, we love you so” sounds affectionate from doting parents, not so much seven-foot-tall rooster-beasts), and children who misbehave are rewarded not with a heavy-handed authorial message of morality but instead with dinner that’s still hot.

What is the 101 Picture Book Challenge?
101 Picture Book Challenge - Toledo Lucas County Public Library - book cover collage

The 101 Picture Book Challenge is a list of recent and classic picture books that we think are great and want you to read. This is the latest in a series of blog posts exploring some of the things we love about these books.

Featured image credit: Wild Things by Gerald Brazell via flickr. Mural in the children’s section of the Richland Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

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