Saturday, July 27, 2013

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

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak:  Max makes some trouble and when his mother gets mad at him, he travels to the land of the wild things.

I love this book and I think every child should see it.  Not only is Maurice Sendak's art incredible but the story he wrote is timeless.  It is an important book too because it is unique.  A lot of children's picture books present a child character that is cute and always sweet and never difficult.  This child does not exist.  

Children, like adults, change and feel.  It is natural for them to show anger, be cruel and cause trouble.  Where the Wild Things Are shows a child character who is all of the above.  I think this is important because it breaks down those stereotypes surrounding children and childhood.  This is  definitely a book children will relate to.

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak: Mickey falls a long way and into the Night Kitchen where three bakers are baking a cake.

I know the controversy surrounding this book is in relation to a naked child being depicted through the artwork, but I cannot understand why it causes so much discomfort.  It is a child in their birthday suit. I remember having a little cousin of 3 years of age who liked nothing more than to take off his clothes and run around giggling. He usually did this at family functions. He thought the clothes were restricting him and so he took them off to feel more comfortable. Let's remember that this is Mickey's dream and in this world he wants to be free from the frustrations of the waking world.  

I firmly believe that the nudity is innocent and has no gross connotations attached to it.  That is why I cannot comprehend why some people are so freaked out by it.

Other complaints have been that the three chefs are creepy.  They are a bit.  I admit this.  But I also think they do not mean or intend to eat Mickey and bake him into the cake.  They do not notice him in their routine.  In fact, their eyes are closed as they stir the bowl. Once you realize this, the creepy factor sort of fizzles out.

I like this book and its oddities make it unique and different.  I also think that in the end, this book is about a boy's dream about cake. And while I do like it, I am not as attached to it as I am with Where the Wild Things Are. 

Of course, not everyone will agree.  A lot of people will come away from reading this review and never want to give this book a chance. It is my hope that those same people take a look at themselves and ask why the naked image of a child (a simplified one) disturbs them so much.

Here is a great animated interview with Maurice Sendak, which I think deserves a watch.  The man was great and a true treasure and he is missed.  It would have been his 85th birthday just this passed June.

Title source:

Sendak, M. (1963). Where the Wild Things Are. New York, NY: HarperCollins Children's Books.

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