When one thinks of a children's picture book, one usually thinks of bright colors and a story that involves a princess and a prince charming. One of the most classic children's books, Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are, however, neither uses bright colors nor a traditional love story. Instead the readers meet a young boy, Max, who, when sent to his room without dinner, imagines a far off land. We meet his friends, "the wild things", and learn that Max is the "most wild thing of all". Those aforementioned trends are not the only aspects that set Where The Wild Things Are apart from other children's picture books. Its structure, plot, and message all contribute to the individuality of this particular children's book.
One interesting aspect about Where The Wild Things Are is the way the pictures and text are set up. The first sixteen pages and last two pages have text with a blank background on the left and the picture on the right. Only a few pages in the middle have the picture and text conjoined on the same page. William Moebius, in his article 'Introduction to Picturebook Codes', refers to something called "the drama of the turning of the page" (132). He observes that a picture book only allows the reader a few words and ideas at a time; authors very carefully decide which ideas and words belong on each page. The few pages where text and picture are together, Max is interacting with the wild things, while the other pages solely describe Max's individual actions. Perhaps Sendak wants the reader to be more aware of the text while Max is alone than what is going on in the text when he is with the wild things.
Sendak chooses ...
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... have their own way of expressing love, and we learn at the end that Max uses this expression to show his love for his mother. Max and his mother subtly show their loving relationship, and it is just enough for the readers to understand.
Where The Wild Things Are seems to be a simple text to understand, but it has many subtleties that are expressed both through text and pictures that give the story a bigger meaning than what is on the surface. The combination between text, pictures, repetition, and the messages sent makes this picture book a children's literature classic.
Moebius, William. Introduction to Picturebook Codes, Word & Image, vol. 2, no. 2 (April - June 1986), pp. 141-51, 158.
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are, New York, Harper Collins Publishers: 1963.
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