Sunday, November 8, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

I finally saw Where the Wild Things Are, the film. I thought it was outstanding. I want to buy it. (I don't buy many).
This will sound heretical, but I was not an early fan of Maurice Sendak's seminal children's book, Where the Wild Things Are.
I bought it, of course, because I was a conscientious young mom who tried to buy the great books. In the Scholastic Book Club flyers that came home from school with my kids I always searched out the Caldecott and Newbery winners. I remember telling my Aunt Marj that I bought those because those were the best books and I wanted to expose my kids to the best.
She said they're not always the best books.
This was distressing to hear. As a crazy-busy parent I wanted an easy, no-think method to as many things in life as possible, and here she was, poking a hole in my carefully-derived plan to expose my kids to only the best in literature and children's art.
Gradually I started to think for myself, and question the award winners, and buy on principle rather than on stickers.
Where the Wild Things Are is one of those books I bought because everyone was talking about it, and it looked fun.
I read it, and wasn't impressed. Maybe the kid in the book reminded me too much of my wild brothers.
Maybe I was afraid of the anger.
Maybe I just didn't "get" the point of the book.
I didn't dislike it; I read it to my family, and it wasn't their favorite, so it went back on the shelf.

I dragged it out of the bookshelf archives to create theme decorations for the baby shower of my brother's first child, no doubt a future Wild Thing.
The decorations were adorable.
I still have them -- I saved some of the monster pictures, and the little boy in the wolf costume (which I added heart buttons to, maybe to soften his anger?).
I hung the monsters on my studio walls and one on the window. They've been there for years. (Well, my niece is now 14) (and she isn't wild)
One of my friends bought me a Where The Wild Things Are t-shirt (sold at Target a while back) for my birthday, one year. I try not to wear it to writer events because I don't want someone reading my chest ("So that's where the wild things are, eh?") and making me blush.

Watching the movie reminded me that the book is scary (Sendak agrees) and that the monsters are not lovable and soft (my decorations are smiling monsters. Fangs, claws, but no indication they'd ever actually use them).

I wouldn't take a four-year-old to the movie. Well, not one of my four-year-olds (see aforementioned easy life desire).
I might take my almost-seven grandson; I think he could relate to hyperactive Max.
As an artist, I loved the film. It was inventive and a feast for the eyes.
As a kids' book writer/illustrator, I loved the film. It built the characters in ways the book was too short to do. It set up an expectation and exceeded it. It repeated worthy motifs and demonstrated wise foreshadowing.
As a parent, I was glad the kid at my side is 12. She fully "got" the story, the intention, the inventiveness, and -- bonus -- no nightmares for me to deal with later.
I loved the film.
Kudos to all involved: the screenwriters, the soundtrack developers (also outstanding), the costume and makeup people, the person who cast the kid (because he's believable, and I dislike films that star terrible kid actors). Kudos to all who took a risk on this film.

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