Sunday, February 6, 2011

Newbery Pick #1: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

"That very night in Max's room a forest grew..."

I always find it interesting when one generation's love for a piece of culture--a cartoon series, a movie, a book, a toy--is renewed and the people of that generation bond over the memory of intensely loving that "thing." For many people in my generation and the generation before us, Where the Wild Things Are holds a special place in our hearts and childhood memories. When the film (based on an adaptation of Sendak's story) came out in 2009, I was one of many who dug up an old copy of the book and reacquainted myself with it. 

It certainly came to mind immediately when I was gathering Newbery Award winners for my reading project, and was nerdily excited to have a reason to pick it up once again. Sendak's subtle rhymes and concise dialogue set the tone for the bright illustrations to lead the reader through a simple story in a most imaginative way. We meet Max and we identify, as children and as adults, the mischievous boy in the wolf suit as a normal kid, looking for something to keep him busy and to satisfy his busy imagination. I recall feeling extra ornery as a little girl, causing bits of trouble with my siblings (or the family kitty cat) for no apparent reason and finding myself sent to my room without supper. Where I found solace in building forts and reading books to pass the lonely time, Max enters into a lush forest filled with fierce monsters. Sendak's monsters are a curious mix of scary and intriguing characters to me-- these giant, odd-looking stuffed animals that one can't help but feel pity for. The monsters' personalities and actions mirror the recklessness and loneliness that Max feels, and he easily falls into the role of ruling "the place where the wild things are" as its King. Soon the fear of the monsters doesn't satisfy Max any longer and he yearns to be back "where someone love[s] him most of all." As he sails on home to find a hot meal waiting for him, I can't help but be reminded of that feeling as a child of being well-loved and taken care of even when I didn't deserve it. It's a feeling that still warms my heart as I bid farewell to Max and close the last page of the book.

5Q for being a completely original story that has stood the test of time
5P for being a well-loved children's book for children and adults alike, in part for beautiful, interesting drawings that kids love and in part for characters that are both believable and imaginative

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