Our book of April is Where the Wild Things are! It is a 1963 children’s picture book by American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, originally published by Harper & Row. The book has been adapted into other media several times, including an animated short in 1974 (with an updated version in 1988); a 1980 opera; and a live-action 2009 feature-film adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze. The book had sold over 19 million copies worldwide as of 2009, with 10 million of those being in the United States..
This story of only 338 words focuses on a young boy named Max who, after dressing in his wolf costume, wreaks such havoc through his household that he is sent to bed without his supper. Max’s bedroom undergoes a mysterious transformation into a jungle environment, and he winds up sailing to an island inhabited by malicious beasts known as the “Wild Things.” After successfully intimidating the creatures, Max is hailed as the king of the Wild Things and enjoys a playful romp with his subjects. However, he starts to feel lonely and decides to return home, to the Wild Things’ dismay. Upon returning to his bedroom, Max discovers a hot supper waiting for him.
At first, the book was banned in libraries and received negative reviews. It took about two years for librarians and teachers to realize that children were flocking to the book, checking it out over and over again, and for critics to relax their views. Since then, it has received high critical acclaim. Mary Pols of Time magazine wrote that “[w]hat makes Sendak’s book so compelling is its grounding effect: Max has a tantrum and in a flight of fancy visits his wild side, but he is pulled back by a belief in parental love to a supper ‘still hot,’ balancing the seesaw of fear and comfort.” In Selma G. Lanes’s book The Art of Maurice Sendak, Sendak discusses Where the Wild Things Are along with his other books In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There as a sort of trilogy centered on children’s growth, survival, change, and fury. He indicated that the three books are “all variations on the same theme: how children master various feelings – danger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy – and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives.
Maurice Sendak won the annual Caldecott Medal from the children’s librarians in 1964, recognizing Where the Wild Things Are as the previous year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children”. It was voted the number one picture book in a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers, not for the first time.
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