Saturday, February 2, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak (1963)

           Where the Wild Things Are is a children’s picturebook by Maurice Sendak (1963).  Within the story, a young boy, Max, is sent to his room without dinner after misbehaving.  Before Max knew it, his room turned into a forest, he sailed across the sea, and landed where the wild things are.  After becoming their king, Max and the wild things create quite a rumpus, and before long, Max decides to travel home, where dinner is waiting for him.  Where the Wild Things Are can be classified as a fantasy, fiction picturebook for children.  To begin with, the story takes place partially in reality, Max’s home, and partially in a fantasy world, where the wild things are (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  It took Max “almost over a year” to arrive in the fanciful world (Sendak, 1963).  Once he arrived, Max encountered animals, or wild things, that were able to think, feel, and behave in a rather human-like manner (Galda et al., 2010).  In this fantasy world, Max appears to be a dimensional character, as he first arrives to get away from home, but later realizes that he misses the love he receives from his family, and decides to return home.  The theme of the story appears to deal with how children deal with one’s emotions, such as the frustration Max feels went sent to bed without dinner; though Max wanted to get away, he came to terms with reality and returned from his fantasy world. 
            According to Galda et al., (2010), Sendak uses “cross-hatching” within his illustrations (p. 62-63).  Such a technique uses the black lines within the story to help readers follow the illustrations, which also follow the narrative.  Sendak (1963) also uses watercolors in his images, which lay under the black lines.  The author’s unique technique and media used creates excitement for young readers, as one is pulled into the fantasy world.  The colors chosen by Sendak are quite cool and dark, emphasizing the mood of the dramatic events that take place.  The illustrator uses an Outline style of art, which allows for great detail to be noticed within the images (Galda et al., 2010).  Within the beginning and end of the book, Sendak (1963) uses black font on white paper on the left-hand side of the page, with the illustration on the right.  Toward the middle of the book, the rumpus of the wild things and Max includes illustrations on both pages.  Sendak also refrains from using too many words on each page, and has dialogue in caps lock.  I also found it interesting that the realistic world, Max’s room, contains brighter colors, whereas the place with the wild things has darker colors. 

            Personally, I loved this story; and to be honest, this was the first time that I have ever read the book!  I found Max’s imagination to be contagious, and I also found the story to be related to my son.  When thinking about Max, he was upset and felt as though he had no control, and was sent to his room without dinner; with such frustration, he “traveled” away to a place where he had all of the control as king.  Max even sent the wild things to bed without their dinner.  After gaining control, he realized that he missed being home where he was loved; in a way, it was as if Max projected his feelings onto the wild things.  My son also has a difficult time dealing with his frustration, and I oftentimes find him talking to his animals as if he is the adult.  The mind of a child is unique, and Sendak captured it perfectly. 
            Maurice Sendak developed his imagination, desire to illustrate, and read early on (, 2013).  He was also deeply inspired by movies such as “Fantasia”.  After high school, Sendak had several of his illustrations published in a textbook.  Having studied art for a period of time, Sendak then became an illustrator for the children’s books of others.  He later went on to illustrate and write his own stories.  Where the Wild Things Are was actually thought to be a controversial book due to the frightening creatures or wild things.  Sendak wrote several others books including In the Night Kitchen, Ten Little Rabbits: A Counting Book with Mino the Magician, and Outside Over There.  Other than illustrating and writing, Sendak also created operas, and designed the “stage production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker” (, 2013). 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
  1.  The 1st activity would involve predictions.  Before reading the story, the teacher would have the students make predictions about what might happen with the story, and who the characters might be.  Throughout the story, the teacher would stop at portions where predictions could be made; for example, after being sent to bed without dinner, students might predict what will happen with Max.  Students should not only state what might happen, but also why they think this might happen; what clues help him or her to think this? Such predictions should be made throughout the entire story so that students are able to review the material in their heads, and formulate possibilities.  This task would be especially beneficial for readers within kindergarten and first grade. 
  2. The 2nd activity would be a literary elements task.  After reading the story and listening to an explanation of literary elements, the class would discuss the setting, plot, characters, and theme of the story.  Within setting, students should consider the time and place.  Within the plot, students should think about the sequence of events and possible conflicts/problems and solutions.  One should also ponder how Max grows throughout the story.  Lastly, the class should try to formulate possible themes for the story.  Students should also become aware of the fact that the story is fictional, and partially takes place within a fantasy world. 
Reader Response Questions:
Can you relate to Max in the story?  In what ways?
Can you describe Max’s personality? (Use details!)
Were any portions of the story too predictable or extremely surprising?
References: (2013).  Maurice Sendak.  Retrieved from
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
Wadsworth, Inc.
Sendak, M. (1963).  Where the Wild Things Are.  New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers
Sendak, M. (1963).  “Where the Wild Things Are”. [online images].  Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. Amy, I absolutely love this book. There are so many fun things you can do with this book alone. This is one of my favorite books.

    One activity I would add to your list would be to have the students think about the wild rumpus that happened in the book. Divide the students into groups and have them create a wild rumpus, complete with a song and dance. Then have them perform their wild rumpus in front of the classroom and have the whole class join in. This is a great way to get the jiggles out :)

    Another fun activity would be to create a food monster. Give each child a large variety of different foods that can be used to create a monster. Then, have the students name their monster and then share their monster with the class. Explain to students that monsters are just in their imagination. Then, give students time to eat their monster creations.

    Very good blog. I really enjoyed reading about the books you reviewed. I have added some of them to my "to buy" list :0)