This article is about the children's book. For other uses, see Where the Wild Things Are (disambiguation).
Script error

Where the Wild Things Are is a 1963 children's picture book by American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, originally published by Harper & Row. The book has been adapted into other media several times, including an animated short, a 1980 opera, and, in 2009, a live-action feature film adaptation directed by Spike Jonze. According to HarperCollins, the book has sold over 19 million copies worldwide as of 2008.[1]


The book tells the story of Max, who one evening plays around his home making "mischief" in a wolf costume. As punishment, his mother sends him to bed without supper. In his room, a mysterious, wild forest and sea grows out of his imagination, and Max sails to the land of the Wild Things. The Wild Things are fearsome-looking monsters, but Max conquers them by "staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once", and he is made "the king of all wild things", dancing with the monsters in a "wild rumpus". However, he soon finds himself lonely and homesick and returns home to his bedroom where he finds his supper waiting for him still hot.

Development history

File:Where The Wild Things Are graffiti 04.jpg

The original concept for the book featured horses instead of monsters. According to Sendak, his publisher suggested the switch when she discovered that Sendak could not draw horses, but thought that he "could at the very least draw 'a thing'!"[2] He replaced the horses with caricatures of his aunts and uncles, whom he had studied critically in his youth as an escape from their weekly visits to his family's Brooklyn home.[3] When working on the opera adaptation of the book with Oliver Knussen, Sendak gave the monsters the names of his relatives: Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile and Bernard.[4]

Literary significance

According to Sendak, at first the book was banned in libraries and received negative reviews. It took about two years for librarians and teachers to realize that children were flocking to the book, checking it out over and over again, and for critics to relax their views.[5] Since then, it has received high critical acclaim. Francis Spufford suggests that the book is "one of the very few picture books to make an entirely deliberate, and beautiful, use of the psychoanalytic story of anger".[6] Mary Pols of Time magazine wrote that "[w]hat makes Sendak's book so compelling is its grounding effect: Max has a tantrum and in a flight of fancy visits his wild side, but he is pulled back by a belief in parental love to a supper 'still hot,' balancing the seesaw of fear and comfort."[7] New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis noted that "there are different ways to read the wild things, through a Freudian or colonialist prism, and probably as many ways to ruin this delicate story of a solitary child liberated by his imagination."[8] In Selma G. Lanes's book The Art of Maurice Sendak, Sendak discusses Where the Wild Things Are along with his other books In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There as a sort of trilogy centered on children's growth, survival, change and fury.[9][10] He indicated that the three books are "all variations on the same theme: how children master various feelings…"[9] The book was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964.[11]


File:Where The Wild Things Are graffiti 02.jpg

In 1973 the book was adapted into an animated short directed by Gene Deitch at Krátký Film, Prague for Weston Woods Studios. Two versions were released: the original 1973 version, with narration by Allen Swift and a musique concrète score composed by Deitch; and an updated version in 1988 with new music and narration by Peter Schickele.[12] In the 1980s Sendak worked with British composer Oliver Knussen on a children's opera based on the book, Where the Wild Things Are.[4] The opera received its first (incomplete) performance in Brussels in 1980; the first complete performance of the final version was given by the Glyndebourne Touring Opera in London in 1984. This was followed by its first U.S. performance in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1985 and the New York premiere by New York City Opera in 1987. A concert performance was given at The Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, London in 2002.[citation needed] A concert production will be produced by New York City Opera in spring 2011.[13]

The live-action film version Where the Wild Things Are is directed by Spike Jonze. It was released on October 16, 2009.[14] The film stars Max Records as Max and features Catherine Keener as his mother, with Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, and Forest Whitaker providing the voices of the principal Wild Things. The soundtrack was written and produced by Karen O and Carter Burwell. The screenplay was adapted by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. Sendak was one of the producers for the film.

The animated series The Simpsons made allusion to Sendak's book in the season 17 episode "The Girl Who Slept Too Little". In the episode, the take on the book was titled "The Land of Wild Beasts".[15]


  1. Thornton, Matthew (February 4, 2008) "Wild Things All Over". Publishers Weekly
  2. Warrick, Pamela (October 11, 1993) "Facing the Frightful Things". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on August 27, 2009.
  3. "Wild Things: The Art of Maurice Sendak". April 15 – August 14, 2005. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Burns, p. 70.
  5. Sendek, Maurice (October 16, 2009) in a video from "Review: Where the Wild Things Are Is Woolly, But Not Wild Enough" by Hugh Hart. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
  6. Spufford, p. 60.
  7. Pols, Mary (October 14, 2009) "Where the Wild Things Are: Sendak with Sensitivity". Time magazine. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  8. Dargis, Manohla (October 16, 2009). "Some of His Best Friends Are Beasts". The New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (June 1, 1981). "Books Of The Times". The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2009. 
  10. Gottlieb, Richard M (2008). "Maurice Sendak's Trilogy: Disappointment, Fury, and Their Transformation through Art". Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 63: 186–217. PMID 19449794. 
  11. American Library Association: Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present. Accessed May 27,2009.
  12. The Tennessean, Nashville Scene p. 46, March 12, 2009, "Bach in Black" by Russell Johnston
  13. Wakin, Daniel J. (March 10, 2010). "For New York City Opera Season, Bernstein, Strauss and New Works". The New York Times. 
  14. Sperling, Nicole (September 11, 2008). "'Where the Wild Things Are' gets long-awaited release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 12, 2008. 


  • Burns, Tom (Ed.) (2008). Children's Literature Review 131.  Missing or empty |title= (help);
  • Spufford, Francis (2002). The Child That Books Built. Faber. 

External links

Preceded by
The Snowy Day
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by
May I Bring a Friend?

Template:Maurice Sendakca:Allà on viuen els monstreseo:Where the Wild Things Areit:Nel paese dei mostri selvaggi he:ארץ יצורי הפרא nl:Max en de maximonstersno:Til huttetuenes landfi:Hassut hurjat hirviöt sv:Till vildingarnas land

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.