I’ve seen this title all over the place. It has enjoyed far more popularity than most Caldecott Medalists – far more popularity than most picture books period, to be honest. I never read it as a child and for the last few months I’ve been wondering what exactly makes Where the Wild Things Are such a success. And then I found my copy.
You’re probably thinking that this is where I tell you exactly why WWTA is such a success and why it’s my new favorite Caldecott. But that’s not what’s about to happen. Because, to be honest, I’m still not quite sure why it was such a success. Sendak’s a whiz as an artist, so the illustrations are well done. But I for one don’t find them attractive.
The story is of a young boy who is sent to his room without supper for parading around in a wolf costume causing all kinds of trouble and who tells his mom “I’LL EAT YOU UP” when she calls him a wild thing. Stuck now in his room, Max decides to voyage to the land where the wild things are. The wild things are loud and noisy and gnash their terrible teeth at him, but Max quells them with the gaze of his eyes and they call him the wildest thing of them all. They make him king and have a wild rumpus before Mac begins to long to be back where people love him and he sails back to his bedroom and finds his dinner warm and waiting.
I was glad that Max recognized that his parents loved him, but for the rest, I couldn’t really identify with or enjoy the story. [This coming from a person who likes picture books as much as adult books.] The wild creatures, rather than simply being scary lions and oversized tigers, are grotesque imaginary partly human-looking, but mostly monster-looking things. I probably would have gotten nightmares as a kid from them. Also, while everyone, both young and old, enjoy adventuresome pursuits, I’m not a fan of “wildness for the sake of wildness”. [And I’m not just picking on WWTA here – read my review of Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men if you don’t believe me.] Fun? Sure. Adventure? Sure. Excitement, challenge, exploration, triumph? Sure. Wild? What is the meaning of wild? It means untamed – uncontrollable. And being uncontrollable is not the goal.
Conclusion. Yeah, so that review was way too long – I didn’t like this book, but it won’t take long for you as a parent to skim over it, if you wish to draw your own conclusions.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret