Apr 2, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are

by Maurice Sendak

This is one of those books so wonderful it will always be around. A classic of children's literature, Where the Wild Things Are is a story told more in pictures than words. It's about a mischievous little boy Max who gets sent to his room for being "a wild thing" and dreams himself into a land of monsters where he rules as king. If you want to read more, try these reviews.

I don't usually talk about picture books on my blog, but last night reading this one to my daughter I noticed something. The wild things are not the same on every page. I got curious how consistent they were, and sat down to look more carefully through the pages. There are eight double-page spreads featuring monsters.

When Max first arrives at the shore four monsters meet him. There is a lion-thing with three horns, a goat with claws, a redhead monster with duck feet, and the signature (to me) creature with stripes and scaly legs. (I'll refer to him as "mr stripey").

The next spread shows the same four monsters with one more peeking through the bushes, who has a bull's head.

Third spread features four: all the above monsters minus the goat-thing, and plus an eagle-face one.

In the fourth wild scene, the only monster we've seen before is the lion-thing. There's three new ones- one with a red bulbous nose and short horns, one with a long nose and short horns, and one that has the redhead's face, only minus duck feet and bearing stripes. This is redhead-stripes' only appearance.

Fifth scene (hanging from trees) has four familiar monsters: mr stripey, duck-feet, bull-head and eagle-face.

In the sixth spread (marching through the forest) there are five wild things: mr stripey, bull-head, eagle-face, duck-feet, and in the middle the red-nose short-horned one.

On the seventh pages (the monsters sleep) we see long-nose, lion-thing and bull-head.

And in the parting scene five wild things roar "don't go!": red-nose short-horns, bull-head, duck-feet, mr stripey and lion-thing (although he seems to be missing two horns, not-quite hidden in the cave).

So how many wild things are there? I count nine. If you want to include the sea-monster Max sails past on his way to where the wild things are, there's ten. Curiously though, when I see the characters from this book featured in various places only five or six seem to make a regular appearance: mr stripey and those that have distinct animal features: lion, bull, eagle, goat (my favorite, even though he is only on two pages of the book) and red-nose short-horns. The two more nondescript monsters don't seem to be as popular, poor things! Which one is your favorite wild thing?

I really like this animated bit I found on You Tube.

Rating: 4/5                     40 pages, 1963


Maw Books said...

Loved this book as a child and still love it as an adult. My husband has a Wild Things t-shirt that he loves. Did you know they are making a movie?

Jeane said...

Yes; I was trying to find the clip that's been floating around online but it's been pulled off. I can't wait until it comes out!

Anonymous said...

I was definitely scared of this book as a child, but now I LOVE Maurice Sendak, and this is my favorite of his books, although they are all quite good. I've heard the new one that came out for Mother's Day last year was fantastic. I bought it for my mom and future mother-in-law to take into their classrooms, but I've not seen it myself yet.

Trish said...

I love this book, but I have never noticed the different monsters in that much depth. I'll have to pull out my copy when I get home tonight!

Nymeth said...

It's a wonderful book indeed! I'm SO excited about the upcoming movie...Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers! The result can only be great.

Jeane said...

My toddler really likes Where the Wild Things are, but she's scared of another Sendak book, Outside Over There. She doesn't like the fake goblin baby melting.

writer2b said...

I wouldn't say I like all of Sendak's stuff either. 'Pierre' comes to mind. But we're big fans of this book! My daughter dressed up as the stripey one (I discovered that his name is Moishe)last Halloween, complete with a black wig and a paper-plate mask. And we have a stuffed Max and 3 wild things... cute but the kids never play with them.

The funniest thing I read when I was making the costume was that Sendak modeled them after relatives! :-)

Jeane said...

The wild things have names? I had no idea. Where did you find that info? I'd like to know them all.

writer2b said...

I discovered the names when I stumbled across the plush toys. I'm not sure where the names originated -- with the book, or as a marketing thing for the toys.

You can see the names and links to other info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where_the_Wild_Things_Are

I could swear that I read an interview with Sendak where he said he modelled the wild things after relatives who would come over for visits, but I've seen a few other sources today that say the relatives were Holocaust victims. So I retract my comment about it being funny. :-/ I had no idea how much the Holocaust was a factor in his art.

Susan said...

We love WTWTA over at our house! We even bought the DVD, so now my kids like Carole King singing the Alphabet Song and Pierre. whenever they are feeling in a bad mood, on comes Wild Things.....and even though I have now seen and read this countless million times, every time Max smells the food in his room and 'it is still hot', it bring a lump to my throat. what a wonderful story for all ages!!
I will have to think about my favourite monster....
thanks for coming to my site and leaving comments, I hang my head in shame that it took me this long to get here! I love your site and blog header! I've added you to my blog....question: where in the Pacific Northwest are you from? I lived in Victoria two different times, and Vernon (in the Okanagan Valley) twice also. I miss the Northwest even though it has been many many years since I even visited, it's in my blood. It's one of the things I love best about Canada.

Jeane said...

I grew up in Seattle, Washington state. I've also visited Oregon, it's beautiful as well, and lived in San Francisco for some time.

Susan said...

Thanks for telling me! I've never been to Seattle, but I was to islands off of it, and Neah Bay. this was long ago. There is nothing like the Pacific Northwest for the rainforest - those huge trees- and mountains,and ocean, is there? Though you have a different type of forest in Maine, now. I think I miss the mountains most of all.