Book Review: Where The Wild Things Are

Yet another of ALA’s most frequently challenged books. I know…I’ll stop reviewing them once I’ve read them all.  Or, I guess I’ll stop once people quit challenging books (after I’ve read the current batch of no-nos).


Party time

Party time

I understand that someone might be disturbed by the cruelty of the teenagers in The Chocolate War.  There is no denying that Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark isn’t full of grotesque pictures and tales.  Even Where’s Waldo? has its detractors–but they detract (I think this is a word) for concrete reasons.

Whether they should be offended I leave up to you–but in the books mentioned above, challengers know exactly what they find offensive.

The criticism directed at the charming Where The Wild Things Are is scattershot and bizarre.  Most people I’ve talked to about it can’t really elaborate on why they find it inappropriate.  They just do.  Yes, I’m generalizing, but I’m not being less precise than someone saying “It’s bad because it’s bad.”

The story

A boy  named Max throws a hissy fit and his parents send him to bed without supper.  He then travels to a crazy island where he meets the Wild Things.

The Wild Things

The Wild Things

They have a big party called The Wild Rumpus.  Basically they just howl and dance.  Then Max decides to go home…and he does.

When he gets home, his supper is still warm.

The end.

Reasons for the challenges

  • Max is sent to bed without supper.  Some people have found this to be unacceptably cruel
  • Max throws a tantrum.  This sort of behavior was not tolerated Back In The Day–at least not Back In The Day when Where The Wild Things Are was written. For my part, one of my own characters in The Knot was inspired by Max.
  • It gives children nightmares
  • It has subversive psychoanalytic overtones (undertones?)

The Verdict

These are the sorts of erratic statement I expect to hear from people wearing those hats with the buckles on them.  But since this is not the era of the Mayflower, it is time for cooler heads to prevail. As usual: everybody settle down.

Where the Wild Things Are is one of my earliest memories of literature.  It is one of the reasons I became a book lover, and I know I am not alone in that.  I agree that this book is potent and evocative, as the best books should be.  Sadly, this is the case with many banned books…if not most.  Where The Wild Things Are stirs the imagination of anyone who looks at it, whether they know it or not.

And the Where the Wild Things pictures and illustrations are some of the most memorable I’ve ever seen.

Stifling the imagination is unhealthy  Banning books stifles the imagination.  Connect the dots and then go read this wonderful story.

There is a lot to love here. I think I could read the book a dozen times in a row and find something different to enjoy every time, which would probably results in a different Where The Wild Things Are book review every single time.

 

Josh


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