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Happy 50th Birthday, Where the Wild Things Are! 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Classic

This week saw a big important birthday. On November 22, the Maurice Sendak masterpiece Where the Wild Things Are has turned fifty. Yes, FIFTY!

This book of a boy named Max and his monster pals has inspired the imagination of countless children, a movie, dolls, toys, and even a whole bunch of tattoos. When initially released, the book was met with a mixed reaction. While Publishers Weekly thought Sendak’s illustrations were  “superb,” they warned that “they may well prove frightening, accompanied as they are by a pointless and confusing story.” But even though some children (and adults) found the story and the pictures to be a bit disturbing, the book soon became a cult-classic and has been loved by generations.

But how much do you know about Where the Wild Things Are? Here are 10 things you may not know about Maurice Sendak’s fifty-year-old book.

 

  • The working title 1 of 10
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    Where the Wild Things Are was originally set to be Where the Wild Horses Are. But as Sendak started to work on the book, he realized he couldn't draw horses. 

     

    Photo Source: Walt Disney Family Museum

     

  • The monster inspirations 2 of 10
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    The monsters were inspired by his relatives — specifically his aunts and uncles — and he named them after them: Aaron, Bernard, Emil, Moishe, and Tzippy.

     

    Photo Source: Walt Disney Family Museum

  • The direction of the movie 3 of 10
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    Maurice Sendak hand-picked Spike Jonze to direct the film version of Where the Wild Things Are. He said of the finished product: "What I've seen him do is, he's turned it into his without giving up mine ... He's touched me very much." You know what? We believe him. Now, if only he could promise us the same thing about the makers of the Wild Things video game."

     

    Maurice Sendak worked with both Spike Jonze and author Dave Eggers to create the screenplay.

     

    Photo Source: Amazon - DVD Available here

  • Children’s monsters are scarier than Sendak’s 4 of 10
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    There were some people saying that the monsters were too scary, but Maurice Sendak said that children would send him their own versions of monsters and their versions made his "wild things" look like "cuddly fuzzballs."

     

    Photo Source: Walt Disney Family Museum

  • How much is a signed copy worth? 5 of 10
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    Last year a signed copy of a first edition of Where the Wild Things sold for $25,000 on Abe Books. 

     

    "This is by far the most expensive Sendak book sold through our site and a significant price for a children's picture book," said a rep for Abe Books. "We sell many expensive examples of classic children's books but rarely children's picture books for such a high price."

     

    Photo Source: Abe Books

  • What happens to Max 6 of 10
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    Maurice Sendak spoke to Bill Moyers and talked about this very famous character Max.

     

    "People often say, 'What happens to Max?' It's such a coy question that I always say, 'Well, he's in therapy forever. He has to wear a straitjacket when he's with his therapist,'" Sendak told Moyers.

     

    Photo Source: Walt Disney Family Museum

  • Sendak’s take on the anti-Where the Wild Things Are movement 7 of 10
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    "This is not a book you leave in the presence of sensitive children to find in the twilight," a librarian once said of the book.

     

    Sendak said of the anti-Where the Wild Things Are sentiment:

    "I think probably it was the first American children's book—God knows I didn't set out to do this, it was my first picture book. But, I was talking about kids I knew and me. A book, an American book, where the child actually daunts his mother and threatens her.

    No way. No way. And then on top of that, she puts him in a room and denies him food. No way. Mamas never do that kinda thing. Kids never get pissed at their parents. Unheard of. And the worst offense, he comes home. She leaves food for him. And he's not punished."

  • Sendak’s personal favorite book 8 of 10
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    While many of us count Where the Wild Things Are as our favorite Maurice Sendak, it was not his own personal favorite. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, he confessed that he prefers Outside Over There, Higglety Pigglety Pop!, or There Must Be More to Life.

     

    Photo Source: Amazon/available here

  • False Claims 9 of 10
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    Back in the day, Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim "accused Sendak of causing anxiety in children"  due to the theme of "desertion" in the book. But Bettelheim, years later, confessed he had never read the book before he went on record making those accusations.'

     

     

  • Walt Disney 10 of 10
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    Maurice Sendak had originally sold the right to his book to Walt Disney Studios back in the early 1980s. The one and only John Lasseter produced a hand-drawn and computer animated short, but plans for Disney to turn the short into a feature never happened.

     

 

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