Where the Wild Things Are

Publisher: Random House

Max is being naughty. His mother calls him a “wild thing,” and, when he is cheeky to her, she sends him to bed without his dinner.

Dressed in pyjamas that make him look rather like a wolf, Max feels very cross up in his room and either dreams or imagines that his bedroom turns into a jungle. When a boat appears, Max sails to the land of the wild things, where he finds huge, multicoloured monsters with big claws and teeth.

Not frightened of anything, Max tames the wild things, who agree that he is the wildest of them all, and make him their king. Max calls for a “wild rumpus” he and the wild things dance in the moonlight, hang from the trees and have a fantastic (if rather unruly) time until Max realises that he misses home. Although the wild things beg him to stay, Max returns to his bedroom, where his dinner is waiting for him – and is still hot.

A classic picture book, Where The Wild Things Are was one of the first picture books to explore a child’s anger, and does it in a way that allows a conversation to be had without ever feeling preachy. Max is allowed to express his feelings, fully letting go with the wild rumpus – and comes back to his mother and home when he’s worked it all out (from a modern perspective, it could be said that the book shows a child having a time out). Yet, as well as the book’s emotional resonance, Sendak’s scenes of the wild things and the wild rumpus are also a joyous celebration of the imagination and of the freedom of being a child. Sendak’s artwork continues to be an inspiration to many modern picture book makers, and the impact of Where The Wild Things Are on children’s literature in the twentieth and twenty first century can’t be underestimated.

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