Where the Wild Things Are

Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Harper and Row, 1963. 40 pages.

When the young main character Max, goes on an adventure to an island inhabited by monsters in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, he learns an important lesson regarding his childhood. After disobeying his mother, Max is sent to bed without dinner. Max deals with this punishment by imagining a world where he is in charge and everything goes his way. His world includes a jungle filled with monsters or “wild things” that make him their leader. In the end, however, Max grows tired of his freeing lifestyle and “travels” back home, where he finds his warm dinner waiting for him.

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In addition to writing the story, Sendak also illustrated it, with numerous elements to keep the child interested. Sendak made pictures with mostly dark colors, with some pops of lighter colors, including Max’s white outfit. Sendak’s drawings are somewhat simple looking, but also very intricate in terms of patterns. Sendak uses pen to create texture, adding to the lifelikeness of the monsters. Sendak also uses the white space where the text is to add to the reading experience. Throughout the course of the story, that white space decreases in size until it goes away completely. The absence of the white area shows Max’s imagination growing. Eventually, the white space returns and increases back to its original size in the end of the book.

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“Let the wild rumpus start.”

This book is useful in teaching children about their own childhood. When Max imagines his own “wild things” world, he uses this to escape the trials of his own life. The only reason Max’s imaginary world came into existence was because he was upset with his own circumstances. This can raise numerous questions in the mind of a child, such as why things do not always go their way or why they are sometimes unhappy. Max learns that he can only escape his own unhappiness for so long and that he must face the real world. When Max grows homesick, he also begins to grow up, realizing he cannot hide from his problems forever. When he returns to find his dinner waiting for him, he also realizes that if he tries, he can find his own happiness in the real world.

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