For my first Cannonball Read review I’ve decided to review my favourite book of all time, Where The Wild Things Are. Start as you mean to continue… I will probably be reviewing other picture books, because I know I can easily write more words than the books actually contain. I have a lot of Opinions about children’s books and their quality and importance in creating lifelong readers. Even before they can read, kids can love books.
This is a classic illustrated book and the winner of the Caldecott Medal for Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year for 1964. Maurice Sendak was a brilliant illustrator and writer who truly understood that childhood is not all sweetness and light; it contains terrors as well. He modelled the Wild Things after his own large and loud uncles. I wrote an essay in Uni comparing the works of the artist Marc Chagall and Sendak and analysed how their Judaism and focus on family influenced their work. (I will not be so pretentious now, fear not) In this particular work, Sendak is exploring how we leave home, and how we come back.
On the night that Max wore his wolf suit and got into mischief of one kind and another, he went too far, and when his mother called him a “Wild Thing” he said he would eat her up, so he was sent to bed without supper. That night in Max’s room, a forest grew… (its really hard for me to not quote the whole book right now). He travels to the island of the fearsome Wild Things, where he tames them and has a wild rumpus. Eventually he gets homesick and returns to his room, where he finds that his supper is waiting for him after all. Because even when you are a massive jerk and threaten to eat people, they still love you, you guys.
One of the many aspects of Sendak’s brilliance in this book is in his use of the size of the pictures. In the beginning, the pictures of Max’s home are small and there is more text. As he journeys away from home and to the island of the Wild Things, the pictures get bigger and there is less text, until there are only pictures for the Wild Rumpus and no text. The text returns and the pictures get smaller again as he returns home, until the last page contains only the words “and it was still hot.” (which I consider to be the best final words of any book ever)
I gift this book constantly. To new parents and to new graduates and to anyone else, basically. It is a heartfelt and beautiful story about leaving home and growing up and how you can always go back to the people that love you. And they will keep your supper hot.