Written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Puffin Books)
The ultimate toddler tantrum book. When Max has one of those wild up-to-no-good evenings his mom sends him to bed without any dinner. In his room Max’s anger grows into a forest and Max decides to sail off on a boat, ‘through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.” In this magical land, Max encounters wild things who ‘roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth and roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible claws.” With a toddlers ease he tells them to “Be still’ and wins them over to become king of the wild things. Life as the king is fun at first but then Max realizes he’s lonely and he wants to be with ‘someone who loves him best of all.’ So he sails back across the world to his bedroom and there his super is waiting for him. And it is still hot.
My very favourite book for toddlers that uses the land of the wild things as a symbol for the place our anger can take us. It does feel as if we can stare down the scariest wild thing when we feel in a mood and all we long for at the end is to be loved and accepted, tantrum and all. (I think even adults feel that – not just toddlers!) That reassuring plate of hot dinner is like a beacon – come home, all is forgiven, I will love you no matter what. It’s not just a fun read, it’s also a good book to help children understand their moods and emotions and to remind them not to take it all too seriously. Best news is the wisdom still applies to teenagers!
Maurice Sendak is a legendary writer and illustrator who the New York Times has described as ‘the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.’ Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963 and it introduced the modern concept of a picture book. All these things are important but most important is the fact that it both scares and reassures children, not hiding the terrible claws, but showing that claws and all, Max is still loved.