Thursday, April 3, 2014

PBD: Where the Wild Things Are

A friend recently pointed out that I had not included my all-time favorite picturebook yet on my blog. OMG she was right! So here it is. The classic of all classic picturebooks. And a short vignette that will be featured in a new book by Steven Layne.

Some Time with the Wild Things

            “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another…” The opening lines of Where the Wild Things Are sets the tone for its own reading. To say that I read aloud this book would diminish the emotional and embodied nature of performing a picturebook like this. You have to roar your terrible roars, gnash your terrible teeth, and roll your terrible eyes to bring this story to life. It doesn’t matter if it is preschool or graduate school. You gotta be the book!
To say I connect to the character is an understatement. Max is deeply embedded in my memory, and probably my psyche as well. There are times in my life when I am Max. I have sailed away in a red boat and longed to be where someone loved me best of all. Just another rebellious boy with an inexhaustible imagination, making mischief of one kind and another. Who thought you could make a career out of that? And my own actions have usually ended with similar results – being sent to my room, office, classroom, or doghouse without supper.
Each time I read this picturebook, I revel in Sendak’s language as his words spill across pages, only slowed down by my desire to linger a bit longer in the illustrations. When Max returns home exhausted, I am as well as I close the back cover, satiated, but comforted in knowing I can return again and again to Where the Wild Things Are.

From the opening lines of the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, the author, Maurice Sendak invites us to travel along with Max, to understand his vision of the world and the limitations associated with childhood.

Through the use of carefully chosen text and surrealistic pastel illustrations, Sendak invites us to accompany Max on a journey into his imagination. Max is escaping the reality of his life and his bedroom, by creating a world that allows him to push through the limitations imposed upon him by his mother and the realities of his childhood.

As the story progresses, a forest grows in Max’s room, and of course in his imagination as well. He is soon transported by private boat to an island where he tames the Wild Things and is feared and respected. He quickly becomes the most Wild Thing of all, and is crowned King of all the Wild Things.

As Max’s imagination grows, we notice that the text slowly disappears and the illustrations grow to three double page spreads that contain edge to edge illustrations with no text at all. These “text-free” pages correspond to the “rumpus” where the story reaches its climax and Max’s imagination has completely replaced reality.

In this book, the written text becomes associated with reality and the illustrations become associated with Max’s imagination. However, Sendak does not draw a definitive line for us between reality and imagination, but slowly allows imagination to overtake reality as the forest consumes Max’s bedroom, and then brings us back to reality as the text reappears, Max finds his hot supper waiting for him, and the book closes.

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