As if I could really pick just one! In honor of Megan's Favorite Picture Book Blogfest, however, I am honoring one of my childhood treats: Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Hopefully you won't consider it cliché to love a book so very popular. After a brief ride through my memories I will share a lesson for writing picture books from the history of Where The Wild Things Are.
A whirring helicopter noise best describes the sound I think of when I remember discovering Where The Wild Things Are the first time at a school book fair when I was six years old. I was hunting for the one book my parents would buy, and it seemed to jump off the shelf. Hundreds of kids buzzing around books with their parents faded out like a movie fading out a noisy street and zooming in on a quiet conversation. That book spoke to me. I was a wild thing. I must belong in that book. I started reading and had to have it. I ran to show my parents. I still have that book.
It is remarkable that a book written in 1963 remains just as popular now as when it was published. In 2009 The Morgan Library hosted a display for Where The Wild Things Are and Maurice Sendak. This little history chapter holds a vital lesson for picture book authors. It seems that Where The Wild Things Are went through three major revisions. These were not just line edits. The first draft included horses. Sendak made himself put it down because he felt like it was being forced. When he returned to it, he composed a draft in verse. He described this as "all bad." The third draft ultimately became the version I love.
Many things could be said about Sendak and his books. His patience in re-writing one of my favorite picture books is an example for all writers. Perhaps I'll post about him again one day for more lessons!