Today the wonderful Maurice Sendak, author of “Where the Wild Things Are” died. He was 83 years old. Sendak lost many of his extended family in the Holocaust. This gives him a special perspective on life. Sendak did not want the monsters in his book to be traditional monsters. He said that after he had them all drawn he realized that they were all his Jewish relatives.
Sendak’s story is definitely dark, and his illustrations beautiful. Max, the main character is in big f’ing trouble for telling his mother that he is going to eat her for dinner. He is banished to his room. It is in his room that he imagines this fantasy world of monsters (wild things) who make him King of their world.
In my world, monsters reign supreme over almost everything but Toy Story characters and fairies. My kids love monsters. I have an audio version of this story called Alicia’s Monster. This is a very scary tale about a girl named Alicia who finds a monster hiding under her bed. He demands all of her clothes and shoes and then the clothes and shoes of her mother. Alicia keeps trying to tell her mother about the scary monster under her bed but the mother doesn’t believe Alicia. One day while Alicia’s mother is looking for her lost shoes she looks under Alicia’s bed and finds the monster wearing her shoes. She apologizes profusely for not believing Alicia’s story about a monster living under her bed.
I have listened to this audio tale a thousand times.
This audio book scared me; not because I am scared of monsters, but because I am scared of being woken up in the middle of the night by my children who are scared of monsters under their bed. This never happened though.
So it should come as no surprise that my children did love “Where The Wild Things Are.” They love the monsters. They love that Max is dressed in a wolf costume. They listen to the book with hardly any questions (which is very rare), enthralled by the plot and the illustrations.
Sendak was originally under contract to write a book called “Where The Wild Horses Are”, but it turns out he couldn’t draw horses. Instead he created the “wild things” which were all modeled lovingly after his Aunts, Uncles and Cousins.
Sendak thought that perhaps parents were too protective of their children. We wouldn’t want to read a book that was too scary or barbaric to our fragile small impressionable children right? This is a famous quote from Sendak:
“Grown-ups desperately need to feel safe, and then they project onto the kids. But what none of us seem to realize is how smart kids are. They don’t like what we write for them, what we dish up for them, because it’s vapid, so they’ll go for the hard words, they’ll go for the hard concepts, they’ll go for the stuff where they can learn something, not didactic things, but passionate things.”
Please grab yourself a cup of green tea and take some minutes to see Sendak on The Colbert Report. It is so funny and entertaining.
Before your tea gets cold, listen to Christopher Walken’s version of “Where The Wild Things Are.” If you love Christopher Walken, you will love this.
So what is the moral of the story in “Where The Wild Things Are?” Maybe that it is important for children to be courageous and stand up to authority or be brave against things that scare them sometimes. But in the end, a boy is still a boy, and every boy needs his momma and a hot plate of supper.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.