Imagine writing a book for children and then being told it is too frightening and it will be banned from some libraries. Pretty crazy right? Well, that’s what happened to Maurice Sendak when he wrote Where The Wild Things Are. It tells the story of Max, a very disobedient child, who is sent to bed without supper. His room is then changed into a forest and he travels to a land in his own private boat where there are creatures with yellow eyes and fanged teeth and he eventually faces them down. (Fun Fact: Sendak created those monsters after his least favorite relatives who would come over for Sunday dinners. That’s one way to stick it to them.)
Turns out children are fascinated by things that freak them out. The book ended up selling over 6 million copies world-wide and was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964 for most distinguished American picture book for children. It’s now in almost every household and the love for this book has only grown as we have grown up. Anytime I mention this book, adults and children alike get excited and tell me how much they love the story. (Obama read it to kids for Easter at the White House front lawn last month.) The book is truthful and doesn’t sugar coat childhood like most children’s books. Sendak even said, “I don’t write for children. I write – and somebody says, That’s for children! I didn’t set out to make children happy or make life better for them, or easier for them.” And we all thank you for that Mr. Sendak.
1. The power of art, imagination and daydream allow children to turn traumatic moments into vehicles for survival and growth. My life was not necessarily traumatic as a kid, but it was definitely pretty dark. I’m thankful for the books I had to dive into a different world when life got a little bit harder. I have a tendency to daydream…a lot. I remember daydreaming in the middle of class, which always caused concern for my parents. It was just my mind making stories and different scenarios, which allowed me to write. I chose to write and read to get me through the darker times of childhood, much like Max imagined a whole other world to get through the darker times in his.
2. We should never let our anger separate us from the people who love us. Max chose to let his anger fester and even though it was through imagination, he still ran from his mother. I’ve done the same. I’ve harbored anger, I’ve tried to run and separate myself from everyone. When life tends to be unfair there is this moment where I just want to do it my way. However, as I’ve grown I’ve realized I have an army of people who love me and I love them back. So even in the moments when I may feel like I have to step away, I remember that I’ve got people who have my back.
3. No matter what we do, or how angry we are, our family is always a place to return. Family can mean anything. It can mean parents, or grandparents, friends and even a church family. I have definitely made my fair share of mistakes in my life and I know that I can always go back. We can all go back. No matter what we have done, we all have someone who will welcome us home with open arms. It’s the beauty of grace and love.
4. Never lose your enthusiasm to explore. Max gets on his own private boat and travels to a far off place. I’m not going to lie, but that sounds absolutely fabulous. There are so many places in this world that go beyond our own backyards. Take the time to see them, take the time to go on an adventure and try something new, see a different culture and understand how others live. Trust me, it isn’t always how we live. Be a wild thing for once and explore outside of your comfort zone.
5. Always make time for a Wild Rumpus. I just assume that a Wild Rumpus is just a huge dance party. And there’s always room for a dance party.
Sarah McCallum is an Orange County, CA based Canadian who lives her my two cats and the coolest family you’ll ever meet. She spends her days as an Assistant Editor for a food magazine, and is in the process of writing a children’s book.