“WILD THING! I’ll EAT YOU UP!” If these lines are familiar to you, then you may fondly remember one of the most famous children’s picture books, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. Although Sendak published the book in 1963, its legacy still remains strong today, with performances, film adaptations, and millions of copies worldwide on children’s bookshelves. Today, Bookstr celebrates the 59th birthday of Where the Wild Things Are!
What Happens in the Book?
The book starts off with Max in a little wolf costume, causing a ruckus by running around the house. He declares to his mother multiple times, “I’ll eat you up!” in response to her addressing him as “Wild thing!” After his mess, his mother sends Max to his room without supper, and his room is transformed into a jungle-like environment. Max sails on a ship through treacherous waters, into an island of fearsome creatures, where he asserts his dominance as leader and king of all “wild things”.
Spoiler alert: After taking his place as ruler of the Wild Things, Max and the monsters party and cause a ruckus through the jungle. Max suddenly takes on the position of his mother, sending them all to bed without dinner. He misses home, abdicates his king-title, and sails through the waters and back home to his room.
All in all, Where the Wild Things Are is an ode to the childhood imagination, and the richness and vast worlds that it can create. As the reader, we go through the mind of Max, and into the fictional island of monsters and beasts and the wilderness. Together, we become adventurers like Max, and we reminisce on these imaginary journeys where we could be anything, from rulers to mythical beasts.
Where the Wild Things Are: Awards, Honors, and Recognition
After Where the Wild Things Are was published, its wide audience provided Sendak with multiple accolades for its impact on children’s literature. The book won the 1964 Caldecott Medal for children’s literature, the 1983 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the 1996 National Medal of Arts. These are only a few examples of the accolades received by this book.
With every powerful piece of literature, however, also comes with a little bit of controversy. Where the Wild Things Are spent some time in the banned books list of children’s libraries after being first published. Fortunately, its popularity among children moved it out into public acclaim!
Adaptations and Modern Significance
After its publication, Where the Wild Things Are became the subject of multiple adaptations on the stage and on the screen. In 1975, it received an animated short in a similar art style to the book’s illustration, with a narrator and sound effects detailing the adventures of Max throughout the pages.
In 1980, the book became adapted into a fantasy opera performed throughout Europe and the United States. Most notably, the 2009 film of the same name provided fans of the book a live-action rendition, alongside a more developed storyline, and depth into the characterizations of Max, his mother, and the Wild Things!
If you enjoyed reading this article, take a look at this great article about the legendary Hans Christian Anderson here.