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The Wild Rumpus

2012 May 9

By now, you’re probably aware that legendary children’s author Maurice Sendak passed away this week. It’s not only a loss for children the world over, but for all of the grown ups who remember reading his work as a child. I have vivid memories of reading Where The Wild Things Are in school, in first grade.  After we read the book, our teacher passed out brown paper grocery bags, markers, and yarn and asked us to make ourselves “wild things.” My creation had a head full of bright orange yarn and a leering grin. When we were finished, we cut out eyeholes, put the bags over our heads, and paraded around the hallways of the school. We were encouraged to roar and shout and yell. It is one of the few memories I have of elementary school.

And why does it stick with me? Because I was never a wild thing. I was quiet, shy, followed the rules, sat by myself at recess. While Max, the hero of Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, hungers for excitement and breaking the rules, I was content to read in a corner. So, for me, putting on a mask and roaring down the hallway was an excuse to come out of my shell, even if just a tiny bit. That’s the wonderful thing about the book–it celebrates the fact that children shouldn’t be afraid of their anger, their hunger, their desires, even their fears–it celebrates that children are REAL PEOPLE with the same kinds of emotions as the rest of us. There aren’t many books, even those written for adults, that have stuck with me in this way.

Do you have fond memories of reading this book?

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. Sandy permalink
    May 9, 2012

    It is very sad that the world has lost Maurice Sendak. I read his books to the kids in library story time many times. He had a unique empathy for children.

  2. May 11, 2012

    RIP Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are was definitely one of my favorite books as a child :)

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