Author Maruice Sendak's Caldecott Honor Award-Winning picture book Where The Wild Things Are embodies the heart of childhood, and what a vivid imagination can create when dealing with the reality of the world. One night, Max is sent to bed without finishing his dinner, calling him "a wild thing." Max, unable to carry out his mischief in his wolf suit, is swept away by his imaginative spirit and journeys to the land of monsters.
"That very night in Max's room a forest grew -
and grew -
and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around
and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for max as he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are..."
Max is crowned "The King of Wild Things" upon his arrival to the land of monsters, and they all have a "wild rumpus." As the wild things are sent off to bed, Max begins to long for his home again and feels alone. He gives up being king of where the wild things are because of his yearning to feel love and comfort once again.
"and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it still was hot."
As Sendak defended the critics to his story for it being too "frightening," in his acceptance speech for the Caldecott he stated, "despite adults' desire to protect children from painful experiences," "the fact is that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, that fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their every day lives, that they continually cope with frustration as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming the Wild Things." (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/)
Max's character is someone that readers may be able to connect with; we all experience feelings of anger from time to time; but instead of acting upon those actions, he uses his imagination to free him from the stress of the situation. Although at first he enjoys being in this fantasy world, in the end he realizes that his place is to be at home, safe with his mother.
Sendak's story celebrates the power of a child's imagination, and emulates the realistic emotions and thoughts of children of yesterday and today. It allows for children to enter into a fantasy world with Max, and its through the simplistic text and story-telling illustrations, that readers come away with an understanding that it's okay to fantasize and discover a world hidden within your own bedroom.
"Sendak presents an image of children not as sentamentalized little dears but as people coping with complex emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, wonder, and awareness of their own vulnerability. This well-earned and reassuring happy ending for all children wrestling with human nature's darker emotions." ~ Children's Literature Review
It is through literature, and converstion within literature, that children and teachers, parents can discuss the emotions involved. Children need to know that it is okay to have these emotions but to know how to deal with them in an appropriate manner. Children will be able to relate, imagine, and enjoy the exploration of finding their individual wild sides, while being assured that its okay to have it!