Gail continues our May theme of banned picturebooks with Maurice Sendak’s seminal ‘Where The Wild Things Are’. This picturebook has sold around 20 million copies worldwide yet, when it was published by Harper & Row in 1963, it was banned because critics were worried that it would frighten children and that Max, the main character dressed up in his wolf costume and making mischief in his home, was sent to bed with no supper as a punishment by his mother. Critics were also concerned about the book’s supernatural themes which were considered to be psychologically damaging as Max’s imaginary adventure into a fantasy land was dark and frightening. The original 1973 Weston Woods animated version of the picturebook with its accompanying soundtrack and music contributes to this mood which you can listen to here
The book was, however, considered ground-breaking for representing children’s emotions, especially anger, and it won the Caldecott Medal in 1964. The story also addresses love, security, feeling out of control, relationships between adults and children and the power of the imagination. The story is inspired by Maurice Sendak’s own experience of growing up in Brooklyn and his relationship with his parents.
The narrative contains only nine sentences some of which are spread over six openings and some pages are wordless, so a great deal of the narrative is conveyed through the pictures.
‘Where The Wild Things Are’ can be used to develop emotional and visual literacy as children identify and plot Max’s emotions and feelings as the story unfolds by reading his facial expressions. Have they ever felt like Max: naughty, angry, out of control, frightened, lonely, happy, safe, loved? If they were a parent, how would they have punished Max for his mischief? Children can also explore the world of imagination and draw their own journey to a place where wild things are.
There is a read-aloud of ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ by Barack and Michelle Obama at the 2016 Easter Egg Roll at the White House here
Ten wild facts about ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ here.