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The Wild Things Are Here!

Max completely overtook our household when our eldest daughter Sarah (now in her third year at Western studying English Literature) was three. Her Christmas present that year was a hand sewn wolf suit (just like the one Max wears) and we have several very well worn copies of the book as proof of our addiction.

When the movie adaptation came out last October, we all drove to London to collect Sarah so we could watch it together, and for Halloween shortly after I sewed another Max costume. (Sarah was up till the wee hours of the morning hand altering the suit her hack-sewer mother had created.)

Several years ago I attended a talk by the late Phoebe Gilman who was similarly entranced by this book’s perfection. It was Phoebe who pointed out to those of us in attendance how carefully crafted it is. The illustrations, which start off small at the beginning of the book, grow successively larger as Max journeys into the place of the wild things until, thick into the rumpus, there are three full double page spreads of illustrations with no words at all. From this point on, as Max heads back, the illustrations get smaller and smaller until, on the last page, there are only words.

The whole psyche of both the book and the movie are equally brilliant. There are varying opinions about both (some say the book is too scary for kids and I’ve heard others critique the movie as too adult). I don’t quite get any criticism given what kids are exposed to on TV and in video games, but everyone’s entitled to their opinion. In this family we’re passionate fans of both. TV and video games aside, I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think that kids don’t have the depth of emotion and feeling we see in Max. If the importance of art is to make connections with its audience, I think the Wild Things hits a bulls-eye. The book gives children permission to explore their beautiful wildness without ever losing the unconditional love and safety of home. I felt the movie expanded on this brilliantly, with the personas of Carol, Judith, Douglas, KW and all the others allowing Max to get to know and understand all the various and valid parts of himself and his situation. I loved the movie.

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