Marcia Williams on a perfectly crafted book that is full of excitement, compassion and humour.
Without hesitation, the book that I wish I had written and illustrated is Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. When it was first published in 1963 it was hugely innovative and caused a stir among many librarians, parents and teachers who thought it was far too frightening for children. But I believe it is one of the most empowering books a child can read. The focus is so completely on the boy protagonist, Max, that the child reader will never doubt that this is their book. The balance between words and pictures never falters, and never patronises or diminishes Max and his wonderful ability to create an adventure out of controversy. Eventually (for in the space of an evening Max sails ‘in and out of weeks and almost over a year’) this leads him to learn a little more about his own enormous strength and the importance of those who love and forgive him.
It is a perfectly crafted book, full of excitement, compassion and humour. Sendak’s admiration for children and concern for their struggles in life shows in every line of both text and artwork. He indulges not his own ego but the child’s, and therefore leaves a rich amount of space for the reader to live within the book. With great daring, since this is a picture book, the last page has no pictures and only five words but they bring the book to a perfect, child satisfying, conclusion. Forty years after its publication and just like Max’s supper when he returns from his wild rumpus, this book is ‘still hot’. I love it and wish I had lived through the daily excitement of its creation.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is published in hardback by The Bodley Head (0 370 00772 7, £12.99) and in paperback by Red Fox (0 09 940839 2, £5.99).
Marcia Williams’ latest book is Charles Dickens and Friends, Walker, 0 7445 9232 1, £10.99 hbk, 0 7445 9838 9, £5.99 pbk.