Where the Wild Things Are by Maurie Sendak was one of my favorite books growing up and since it has not been reviewed on the blog in a while I wanted to feature it for this week’s “winners Wednesday”. Sendak received the Caldecott medal for the book in 1964 and many other smaller awards and recognitions. The book is still a favorite among children today, many years after its publication. So, what makes it such a hit? For starters, Sendak’s illustrations of “the wild things” are like nothing that has been seen before. Upon further investigation, I learned that this is because he used caricatures of his relatives that he drew during his childhood. This explains why his drawings are so unique.
Sendak is also very creative with his illustrations. For example, on one of the first pages of the book, when Max is still at his house, the illustrations feature a drawing hanging on the wall that resembles one of “the wild things”. The fact that a picture of the monster hangs in Max’s house helps to support the interpretation that his trip away from home was just a figment of his imagination.
Another creative feature of Sendak’s illustrations are the size of the pictures on the page. When Max is at home at the beginning of the story, the illustrations are in the center with a white border around them but when Max enters into the jungle they become gradually bigger, taking up more space on the page. The increase in the size of the illustrations could be a single to readers that they are entering further into Max’s imagination.
Additionally, Sendak makes use of color in his illustrations to indicate emotions. He uses more muted colors at the beginning of the story to indicate that Max is upset. The colors become more vibrant during the middle of the story when Max is enjoying his time in the jungle but again become muted when he is upset and ready to go home.
In terms of the text features that make this book stand out, some theorize that it stands out because it is story about a boy who manages his anger by using his imagination to remind him of his mother’s love. These are all components that children can relate to. This book could be a great way to use to talk to children about managing their emotions.