Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where the Wild Things Are....

     One of my favorite memories as a mother was sharing my love of reading with my children. I was buying children's books even before they were born. Once they became old enough (at least I thought they were old enough--they were child genius!) we would head to story time at the local library, Barnes & Noble, or Zainy Brainy. Afterwards we would pick beautiful books to take home and read. One of my son's favorites was Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I am not sure how many times we read it during those special preschool years, but I know it got us through the potty training months. It was then that I started to notice that boys wanted to read different books than girls. Even during the preschool years it was always easy for my  daughter to find books that she couldn't wait to read, however it was a different story with my son. I had to use my detective skills to find books that interested him. First, the illustrations had to be eye catching with bold, bright pictures pictures or something unique that you would not expect to see. Miss Spider books were a huge favorite. The more inappropriate the title the higher his interest level would be. Blood, boogers, and potty talk were favorite subjects--he read his Captain Underpants books till the pages actually fell out. Finally the stories had to be mostly about the character's actions and very little about their emotions--Encyclopedia Brown with his detective cases was a favorite series. Where The Wild Things Are was my introduction to the interest and needs of boys readers. It fit all of my son's criteria with a monster on the cover, the word "Wild" in the title, and a story of a bad, little boy that gets the chance to run away. It was perfect!

     The illustrations in Where The Wild Things Are are the first thing that I noticed about the book. They have a child like quality to them. The colors are soft and not jarring however you quickly notice a monster or wild thing sitting under the trees looking sad and lonely. As you move through the book you see pictures of a little boy, Max, dressed in his monster costume doing what monster do--acting like a wild thing. When the "little wild thing" is sent to his room a bed and a full moon dominate the room suggesting that magic might be on it's way. Then page by page Max's room turns into a jungle and he begins a fantasy voyage. The illustrations show rough seas and scary monsters yet they remain soft and almost dream like in quality. Max's expressions show that he is in charge of the whole situation and not a bit scared of his new surrounding. Several pages allow only the pictures tell the story of "the wild rumpus". Finally you see Max, King of the Wild Things, looking a little sad and lonely. He says his goodbye and then has clear skies and smooth water to sail safely home.The last picture shows Max looking more like a little boy than a wild thing smiling about his warm supper still waiting for him. The large bed and the full moon still hint at the magical trip that King of the Wild Things had taken. Maurice Sendak uses the pictures in the story to help the reader infer the whole story.       

     While the illustrations allow your imagination to run free, the book uses words to carry the story along. You see the pictures of Max in his wolf suit causing trouble till "his mother called him "WILD THING!"" and he dared to say "I"LL EAT YOU UP!" which earned him a trip to bed with no supper. The limited number of words combined with the pictures allow you to see that Max isn't sorry for his behavior and his defiant attitude helps him to "escape" to a fantasy world. The flow of the words in the story helps create rhythm in his adventure. Max's surely attitude captivates the Wild Things so they "made him king of all wild things." Even though he enjoys the power of the "wild rumpus", he soon realizes "Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all."  The smell of "good things to eat" is enough for him to give "up being king of where the wild things are" and pull him back home. Once home Max is back to being a sweet little boy.

     As a parent you realize that Max's horrible behavior is probably because he is overly tired and really needs a nap. When you see the large bed in his room you can infer that after he storms around his room for a while he will eventually drift off to sleep. The soft illustrations and soothing words help create the dream like feeling of the land of the Wild Things and the Wild Rumpus that take place in the story. The most heart warming part of the story is that despite Max's horrible behavior, he knows that his mother loves him and she'll forgive him for his mischief.

Where the Wild Things Are

Sendak, Maurice. Where Th Wild Things Are. 2nd edition. First Harper Trophy, 1963. Print.

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