ANALYSIS OF A PICTURE BOOK
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Written and Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Picture books can have a very important role in a classroom, from elementary school through middle and even high school. They offer a valuable literary experience by combining the visual and the text. Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott Award winning book, Where the Wild Things Are, is a wonderful blend of detailed illustrations and text in which a young boy, Max, lets his angry emotions create a fantasy world.
Many fantasy books open with “Once upon a time…” Sendak, instead opens this book with the declarative statement, “The night Max wore his wolf suit…” In starting the story this way, he makes the reader believe what is going to happen. The book opens with Max, in his wolf suit, creating havoc in his home. There is both pictorial and textual foreshadowing of the wild adventure ahead—the drawing of a “wild thing” on the wall that looks exactly like a monster we meet later in the book, the stool and tent that Max later sits in when he realizes he is lonely and wants to return home, and Max’s words, “I’ll eat you up!” This would be a great discussion starter with older students relative to the literary device of foreshadowing. After reading the story, one activity could be to make up other examples of foreshadowing that the author could have used.
In the opening scenes, Max’s mother gets angry and yells at him. He then yells back and is sent to his room without supper. At this time, Max’s world is small and the illustrations occupy a small space on the page. His room is then transformed into a magical forest. As the forest grows, so do the illustrations. As Max sets off in his very own boat, the illustrations grow bigger yet. The sizes of the illustrations grow until the picture occupies the full page and then even spreads onto the next page. The pictures advance down the page until they have taken over the entire two-page spread, forcing off all...
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