This post stems from the news of the death of Maurice Sendack, the author of the, then controversial, children’s illustrated fiction “Where The Wild things Are.” “WTWTA” was published in 1963 and came into the public eye with
mixed feelings from parents. I remember that although my parents would not allow me to read it because it represented a misbehaving child and had scary illustrations, I had fellow students and friends who had read it. I had always been curious about monsters and scary things as a child and even to some degree today. When I saw the book in the public library at six years of age, I sat down and read through it. It was truly scary with it’s monster characters who had fangs and long sharp claws. But I also remember thinking that the ending was kind of cool because Max (the lead character) ended up back at home with supper waiting. I never did tell my mother about reading that book until I was in Jr. High or early High School. By then it was fairly tame as far as subject matter goes.
After listening to Dr. Albert Mohler’s “The Briefing” this morning, I considered his commentary on some of the factors he believed shaped the product of the “WTWTA”. In 1963 the world was truly embroiled in communism vs. anti-communism, the United States was in a face-off with the USSR, Cuba, and headed into another war. Riots were beginning to become commonplace, and the society was indeed restless. I remember as a child, the monsters I knew of were temporary and went away when the lights were turned on or the movie ended. All monsters were killed in the end. Hollywood didn’t think of “milking the product” with sequels until later. But as an adult writing children’s illustrated fiction, one had to consider, as did Sendack, the world view of children in that day and age. Could their monsters really be subdued and brought to a place where they could be ruled by an outsider such as Max eventually did. The reality of becoming homesick was something almost every child can relate to. Even a misbehaving child. I would consider this; with everything that goes on in a child’s mind and life they still need the encouragement of knowing there is still grace and warmth to be found at home. There are indeed some stories that live on and endure from generation to generation. I would certainly believe this to be said of “WTWTA”
I understand that Sendack lived a gay lifestyle (he had a male “partner” for over fifty years of his life) which he never openly admitted to his parents. I would consider this lifestyle to be very dangerous. Especially since it goes against what the holy scripture teach. One would have to wonder what his monsters or “Wild Things” were, and what his world view was. More to this point, as Dr. Mohler points out in his “Briefing” commentary, there is a huge need for great children’s literature from a Christian worldview in this modern age. As parents, we definitely need to be reading the bible to them, and encouraging them to learn to do so themselves. We also need to encourage them to read the classics. There is also need to find or influence the writing of some books that not only explain there are wild and scary things out there that children fear. But rightly tell a story in such a way as to help them deal with the reality of fear. But with that reality they need to be affirmed that there is warmth, comfort, and love at home.