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Where the Wild Things Are: What Did It Mean to You?

05/08/2012 at 11:30 AM ET

With children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak’s death Tuesday morning, us kids big and small are left with a hole in our hearts. But Sendak, the winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for the classic Where the Wild Things Are, told PEOPLE in 1988 that he believed children were tough enough for the grimmest fairy tales. “Parents shouldn’t assume children are made out of sugar candy and will break and collapse instantly,” he said. “Kids don’t. We do.”

Inset; David Corio/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

TELL US: What did Where the Wild Things Are mean to you? Do you remember reading the book as a child? Have you introduced it to your own kids?

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Showing 39 comments

Sarah S. on

My son (now 14 1/2) LOVED Where the Wild Things Are as a toddler. I thought it would be scary to him, but he absolutely reveled in the imagination and wonder of Max. Then we read all the Little Bear books and other titles Mr. Sendak wrote. Also, when both of my kids were toddlers, we watched all the episodes of Little Bear when it was on Nickelodeon.

Thank you Mr. Sendak, for giving us your gift of literacy and illustration. I will forever be grateful to his gift, since it brought many happy reading and dreaming hours to my children. Rest in peace…

Cammy on

“Where the Wild Things Are” is such a wonderful book, and probably Mr. Sendak’s most famous. But I love some of his other books too, that get less attention – books like “Chicken Soup with Rice,” “Pierre,” “One was Johnny,” and “Alligators All Around” and “In the Night Kitchen.” Scholastic Video Collection did an animated version of his books, which my kids loved, called “Where the Wild Things are and other Maurice Sendak Stories.”

TC on

I have a wonderful memory concerning where the wild things are.

I taught 2 yr olds and I had one little boy who was a handful so he had to sit next to me at all times. Well during circle time we read this book often because the kids loved it. The little boy in question could recite the book because we read it so much He loved the part where it says it grew and grew and grew and I’d read that part and then pause for him to repeat me. That went on for a year until he moved up and the first time I read it after he moved out of my class I paused for him out of habit only he wasn’t there anymore.

It was a bittersweet moment for me because I was grateful that he moved up (biters and hitters are stressful) but I missed my little buddy. For Christmas that year I bought him the book and his mother read it to him every night until she succumbed to breast cancer.

Lisa on

I introduced Max to my kids when they were toddlers, (now 16 and 13) and have fond memories of them dancing around the room when the “wild rumpus” would start. I would also sing a crazy tune while showing them the pictures, they would dance, and when Max yelled out “Now stop!” they would freeze and we would continue on.

We had 2 foster girls in our care last year for a short time, and I introduced Max to them as well. They were a little concerned when I started the “wild rumpus” song, but they quickly caught on. They begged me to read this book to them over and over!

JoJo on

“Where the Wild Things Are” inspired me so much as a child that I named my first baby boy (now 14) after the main character. I’ve collected Mr. Sendak’s books for many years.

elizaandeverett on

It makes me so happy to see what joys and influences books have brought not only to us as children (or our children), but adults too. I work in the creative field and I am going to be presenting on how children’s books have taught us lessons and influenced our lives– doing some through short, simple and to the point sentences and illustrations. If anyone has anything to add on how books have impacted them, their children, etc., I’d love to hear it and possibly incorporate into what I’m writing.

Thanks in advance!

Stacey on

I was an elementary education major and my parents gave me the book for college graduation for my classroom. When I became a mother, I got a copy for home. My baby is about to graduate from high school, but I might have to go home and read it one more time for good time sake!

Kim on

I think I can recite “where the Wild Things Are” from memory. I remember reading to my younger brother as a bedtime story on many nights when it was new. Later it was a favorite for my kindergarten class. I love the book and must have read it hundreds of times, out loud, to many children.

Deb Turi-smith on

Where the Wild things are was such a wonderful part of my young motherhood years. I remember the joy I felt reading this to my young daughter, who is now 19. We got to take turns growling back and forth, seeing the joy on each others faces;and I will cherish those memories of the amazing images on each page.

Maurice Sendak, thank you for that gift, and the blessing of those memories, that will last a lifetime, and undoubtedly will be a gift to mothers and their children for generations to come. Rest In Peace.

Christy on

I absolutely loved this book when I was a kid and then my son would love for me to read it to him over and over again when he was a child. He will be truly missed. RIP Mr. Sendack.

Scott's Mom on

This book holds such a place in my heart. My son, now 11, would “read” this book to me. He had it memorized at age 2 or 3, so as I turned the pages, he would recite the book. He loved the pictures and we would always pause and look at the wild things. It is such a fabulous book, my copy is tattered. It’s in my son’s keepsake box, I cannot part with it. Great memories. Rest in peace.

Shannon on

Never heard of it. I will have to check it out.

Pedro on

It is with sadness that I read of Maurice Sendak’s death. My first book that I ever checked out of a library on my own was “Where the Wild Things Are”. I have a copy of this book in my office that I see everyday because of what it meant to me. And I await the time that God blesses my wife and I to have children to read it to them. My memories are forever left in Max’s world of imagination.

Alyssa on

Growing up, before bed was the only time I saw my father. He read this book to me every night. Now that I have my own kids, I have kept that tradition, and so has he.

Marissa on

I remember reading it when I was little. After becoming a teacher, I shared it with my students. I love that you could use your imagination and learn new language. My students loved the wild rumpus part and they actually did have one! Rest In Peace.

Destiny on

My parents read this to me and I read it to my kids. I loved this book and my kids loved it too. There is no one like Maurice Sendak. He will be missed.

lauren on

when i was a kid, I was wild.

I was a wild, wild kid.

my mom hated it. she would always say, you belong in the wild.

since i was a wild kid, I could not dispute that fact.

When i opened the book, where the wild things are, I finally knew where I belonged..

I was wild and Maurice was telling me where I could go to reach my full wildest potential.

i am as wild as I was back then, but its not that bad because if you put an ugly rug next to an even uglier rug, they are both still ugly, but people don’t care as much.

thanks maurice.

Kristan on

Where the Wild Things Are is one of my all time favorite books. I teach high school and I actually give it as graduation gifts (along with Oh the Places You Will Go) because I love the message for graduates: Go, experience everything but know that you can ALWAYS come home and there will ALWAYS be people who love you. Since I don’t have the money to give one to all my kids when they graduate I read it to them and they love it!

Carmen on

My first memory of Maurice Sendak’s writing and art was when I read “In the Night Kitchen”. I was totally fascinated with the illustrations. I then read “Where the Wild Thing Are” and fell in love with the characters. I am a fan and collector of Sendak’s creations and am glad that children across the world will always be able to indulge in his talent.

“Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so.” -Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

Lora on

My baby brother grew up loving these books; I went on to share them with my children, delighting in their whimsy, humor, and love. We have watched every filmed version of his books. Sendak gave us a wonderful gift of the imagination.

sarahekushner on

I am an illustrator… because of Maurice Sendak.

dansmot on

I’m a nanny and have several nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and each and every child I have had in my life since 1981 has been given a copy of Where The Wild Things Are. I estimate I have read this book thousands of times, I know it all by heart.

R.I.P. Maurice, you have given me countless hours of pleasure and no doubt many more to come. Thank You.

Amy on

This was one of my very favorite books as a kid. When I had kids I read it to them all the time. They are 18 and 20 now and will tell you that it is one of their favorite’s as well. His words will live on forever in the many generations that have read this book and the many more generations to come that will enjoy this wonderful story.

Maria on

I grew up in Puerto Rico mostly on Spanish language children literature so I was not acquainted with Sendak’s work. On my first year at the University of Michigan, one of my good friends at the dorm, an English Lit major, gave me two books as presents, “Where the Wild Things Are” and “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

People would be always gently ribbing me because I was much younger than anyone else, and I remember her telling me that all the lessons I needed to learn about life were explained in those books. As life went on, those same books were always in my library; reminding me of the good times in college and helping me gain a little perspective when things were not going well.

One of my greatest joys was to start reading those same books to our children (as you may guess, they are falling apart, so they are retired now, I used new copies later on). And it was a greater joy when I realized my now grown children loved these books too. Today is a sad day…

Amy Ramaker IIDA, LEED ap, CPC on

I first read the book to my two young sons (now grown men) and they and I loved the imagery and originality of the book. I don’t know how many times I said to them “I could eat you up, I love you so.”

And now as a grandmother, I have read the book even more countless times to my three beautiful grandchildren, who love the book as much as their fathers did. My oldest grandson, now fouteen, even has a small rocker on which I handpainted images of Max,his boat and the Wild Things. He dearly loved his “monkers” as his beloved Monsters were called.

I feel very sad today, like we have lost a dear, eccentric member of our family, however in celebration of Maurice Sendak life and imagination, I must loudly, if not a bit sadly proclaim, “Let the wild rumpus start!” May your name be a blessing!

some1tookmyname on

“Oh no, please don’t go! We’ll eat you up we love you so.”

RIP Mr. Sendak. You were instrumental to my imagination as a child and to my inspiration as a teacher and parent. Thank you.

Baylea on

i hated where the wild things are. the monsters and story line always scared me. I hate it. gives me the creeps.

Alexa on

I absolutely love this book! I remember reading it when I was little and in more recent years I would read this story to a group of children at a child development center. They would march around the classroom roaring like the monsters. It was definitely a required book for my daughter’s room. :)

veggiemama on

Oh, what a wonderful author and artist. I was a preschool teacher and read ALL his books to my children, who loved them so much. Later I read them to my son, then he continues with his son and daughter.

Mr. Sendak was childlike himself and tapped into the magic and wonder of children. He knew how they thought, what they imagined.

I had the fortune of meeting Mr. Sendak once at University of Virginia back in the 80′s. I was a young mother at the time. I asked him how i could improve as an artist, as I illustrate children’s stories & did not attend that university. He laughed and told me university wasn’t so important, that I should go to the library and take out my favorite illustrated children’s books and learn new techniques from that. He encouraged me to continue. He was such an inspiration & the real Max.

Gina on

I have always loved books. I read to my now teenaged daughters often when they were very young. This was the first book they really responded to. While they rolled their terrible little eyes, and gnashed their terrible teeth along with the monsters in the book, I could see a spark of a love of books in their little minds. I am happy to say they are voracious readers today.

Thank you Mr. Sendak for “Where the Wild Things Are” and beautiful memories.

Evi on

For me, I was a kid who had a horrible time in grade school. It was a time before ADD had a name, so I was punished and teased a lot. My favorite time was library period. We were allowed to pick one book a week and return it the following week. Every week, I would pick a Sendak book…namely, “Where the Wild Things Are”. I would just soak it all up.

In ways, I very much felt like Max. I really envied his escape.. I wanted that world for myself. So, I started focusing on the illustration. I began crating my own world in drawings. That pretty much began what defined me as a person. I became very active in art at an early age due to this. I began spending all my summers in an art program for kids at a local Art Institute, and began honing my skills. I met so many like minded kids while I was there, even some life long friends.

Now, I’m a successful mural artist. A long way from the awkward lonely kid. For me, he was my first ever experience in self discovery… and I owe much to him for that. Very saddened to see him pass.. may he rest in peace. Thank you Maurice, you’ve meant a lot to me.

Sarah S. on

@lauren…you described my son to a “t”. That is why I read the book to my son, so he knew he belonged.

Randy on

I’m 48 now and It was my favorite book growing up. I was the first book I remember learning to read by myself but more importantly it was a story that helped me learn to be brave at a very difficult time of my life.

I think a lot of kids knew at a young age there were no fairytale endings in real life and me Sendak helped me face the monsters that existed in my daily reality and helped me to stand up to them. Max along with the adults in my life at the time helped me stand up to the monsters and in the light of day with all that strength behind me I turned out pretty ok.

I still have my original copy, it’s a bit bruised and rough around the edges but it shows the love a small boy gave it as it helped show him the way. So thank you Mr. Sendak for your gift of words and understanding kids better then most. And as always “Let the wild rumpus begin”

Marnie on

Where the Wild Things Are saved our lives! When our daughter was young, she was convinced that there were monsters in her room. She refused to sleep unless one of us simply sat in her room with her. A child psycologist recommended this book as a way to show her that monsters were make-believe and even in stories they could be conquered.

Through the years, this is the only book I kept as a reminder of those years. She can recite it chapter and verse even to this day. She is now 18 years old and graduating high school this year. I will be forever grateful.

krow515 on

I am 28 and vividly remember my kindergarden teacher reading to us “Where the Wild Things Are” during story time. I loved the story and the illustrations; my imagination was one that was easily ignitable.

The book has always stuck with me and I look forward to reading it to my own children someday. With any luck they will have vivid imaginations and this story will inspire them as much as it did me…and a wild rumpus will ensue.

Trish on

I have given Where the Wild Things Are to every child in my family on their birthday for over 20 years. Each of my children have their own book, so we have multiple copies in our house, as well as puzzles, posters, stuffed animals, and I can’t resist buying every copy I pass by, knowing that it will be handed off to the next child I come across.

Max (and Little Bear and all Maurice’s other characters) have always been a huge part of the good, happy childhood memories where my nose was buried in books and I didn’t care if people teased me about it. My book was as cherished as my blankee.

My daughter dressed up last year as Max for Halloween, complete with a wolf tail and a fork… while other girls were dressed up as princesses, she only wanted to be Max.

My 2 year old baby boy had Moishe on his 1st birthday cake and sleeps with his Moishe every night.

But my favorite memory? Knowing that the first book my children ever learned how to “read” was Wild Things because I’ve read to them nearly every night for 10 years, as I did to every cousin, sibling, and kid I babysat since I was first given my own copy. Sad to know that our reading tonight included that it was in memory of Maurice Sendak as a goodbye as he traveled to the spirit world today.

He will be sorely missed.

MiB on

This was the book that taught me that the monsters under the bed maybe weren’t as dangerous as I thought they were, so Where the Wild Things Are still holds a special place in my heart. I also loved In the Night Kitchen, but I oddly enough never realized that it was by Maurize Sendak until he was awarded the very first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award! I am however not his biggest fan, that one must go to one of my friends who tattooed the spripey monster on his arm, tail winding around it (and that was a tall, long haired rocker in his late 20′s!).

RIP Maurice Sendak!

MiB on

Ooo! I just realized, he wrote Outside Over There! I loved that one too!

Cindy Pernice on

My husband has a huge Where The Wild Things Are tattoo around his entire thigh, from hip to knee, because it was his favorite book when he was a kid. When we first started dating I told him one day he needed a son named Max. We were married on August 28, 2010 and Maxwell Vincent Pernice was born on September 23, 2011. Maurice Sendak basically named our first child.

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