Maurice Sendak’s Inspiration For Where The Wild Things Are

As an American illustrator, he spent most of his career inventing children’s books. His most famous work is Where The Wild Things Are.

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In Maurice Sendak’s book, Where The Wild Things Are, Max leads readers on a journey of self-discovery. Similarly, Sendak’s inspiration for this book is based on his childhood and growing up in Brooklyn. First, the mother of young Max sends him to his room without dinner. When he falls asleep his bedroom transforms into a low-lit forest, surrounded by a vast ocean. Markedly, a boat approaches and with his desire to escape he sets out for a long journey. Rather than return to his mother’s strict rules, Max lands in a place filled with wild creatures. Not only does Max realize they are tame, but he sees them as his own kind: wild and unruly.

Secondly, the group spends days letting their imagination run wild; as they shouted and danced without a care. Then after days of stomping through the forest Max begins to grow tired, and reprimands the wild things similar to how his mother did to him. For Max he began to understand his mothers reasonings, and that with power comes responsibility. Amid his conclusions, he decides to return home and says goodbye to the wild things. When he awakens, Max is alerted by the smell of something delicious. Given these points, Max learns that his home is where he belongs and loved the most.

Correspondingly, Maurice Sendak’s childhood nickname meant “wild thing” in Yiddish. Regardless of his name, Sendak felt he was the opposite of brave like his character Max. Once he had mentioned how bedtime was depressing as he knew his parents were having fun and being “wild” at nightime; he wanted the same freedoms. By the same token, he compares Dumbo’s relationship with his mother to Max’s character and his mom. Then his illustrations were a demonstration of how he interpreted his life and events around him. At the same time, he began drawing as a child when he suffered from different ailments.

Frequently, his issues in his childhood translated into his works. In other words, Sendak’s style is unique, compared to other children’s books because his books have more sad and realistic takes on them. Prior to his career as an author, he grew up in a Kosher household during World War Two that impacted his adult life. On the whole, his Jewish upbringing had an effect on the writing he developed. As a result, a majority of his books use both humor and serious issues to create pieces that were not only interesting, but left even the adults thinking analytically about the purpose of it.

“scaring the hell out of a whole generation of kids and they loved it,”

Maurice Sendak

Thus, this quote explains his passion for shocking young readers who in the end loved reading his books. Hence why the creatures resembled childhood Jewish relatives. Surprisingly, the original name for Where The Wild Things Are, was Where The Wild Horses Are. Yet, because he couldn’t draw horses, he instead chose to draw these monster-looking beasts that were in fact gentile. In addition, looking back on this book Sendak comes to terms with how he reacted to difficult family situations, when Poland was being invaded. For these reasons, Sendak didn’t know that his family was being murdered; that is why he couldn’t always get what he wanted in life.


When this book became an opera, he changed the dialogue to fit a musical; using yiddish rhymes from his childhood. However, the original copies of his drawings were lost and had to be recreated for a special edition. Also, Max’s Journey in the forest and ocean reveal more about the character as well. Notably, this reveals Max’s character development when he travels into an unconscious world of personal growth. In essence, Max is Maurice Sendak, because they both explore the past and consider how life has hidden meanings. If Max hadn’t run away he never would have learned that parenting was a necessary thing. Meanwhile, Maurice Sednak considers his own actions and what was really happening in the family.

Altogether, Where The Wild Things Are is still a classic children’s book that won the Caldecott Medal in 1964. To explain, Sendak received the award because it was honest about children’s emotions, especially anger. Not only this, but it taught children how to deal with their emotions as well. Additionally, this book won the National Medal of Arts in 1996. Most compelling evidence was the fact that he used his Jewish heritage during World War Two to translate into a simple book designed for children. Finally, these are the inspirations that led to the publication of Where The Wild Things Are.