Thursday 10 May 2012

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Harper and Row)

It's an eerie coincidence that this very week saw the death of Maurice Sendak, the same time as we'd pulled this book out of the library stacks to review. Sendak's death has prompted many many journalists, writers and illustrators to express an outpouring of love for Sendak and sadness at his loss.

Of course, adding our voice to the millions who love this book is like singing into a hurricane but nevertheless we're going to do it anyway. Like many of the books here on ReadItDaddy, this is a book I loved as a child, had bought for me as a child, subsequently lost (or loaned) and rediscovered once I had children of my own. Charlotte's interpretation of the book made it feel refreshing and new again, and her appreciation of the small pauses and text-free illustrations in between Sendak's sparse dialogue were marvellous and did not go unnoticed.

So this story of wayward child Max becoming the king of the wild things is well known. Movies have miserably failed to do the book justice, an operatic treatment was surreal to say the least but the book itself is undoubtedly a classic.

And yet, with the eyes and life experience of an adult, revisiting Where the Wild Things Are, it's surprising that it's not pilloried for showing naughty children as heroic and rewarded for their errant behaviour. Pilloried, that is, by the sort of parents who demand certain books are withdrawn from their local libraries lest they offend their tender little offspring.

For me, and thankfully for Charlotte, "Where the Wild Things Are" is the book equivalent of a raucous trumpet solo right in the middle of a piece of classical music. A thumb print on a white painted wall in an art gallery, or a pool of tomato ketchup pooling underneath a child's seat at dinner. Naughty, uproarious and thoroughly way, way ahead of its time. A lot like Sendak himself then.

RIP Maurice. I won't finish this review with the trite cliched quote from your book that countless others have used (about the supper still being hot) but I'll tug my collar in deep respect of someone whose work will stand the test of time.

Charlotte's best bit - The uproarious jungle dance of Max and the Beasts

Daddy's favourite bit - Crosshatching to die for

Rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars.