Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Best Picture Book Ever

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!

25 comments:

D U Okonkwo said...

Some picture books that were written years ago will never go out of print. They remain as popular as when they were first published. A good example is 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' I think it's called that my nephews love. Another is Peter Rabbit etc. Timeless classics.

Laura Marcella said...

Love this book! It's funny you posted about this because I just read that it almost was about horses! But Sendak thought horses were too difficult to draw and he had more fun drawing monsters.

I'll have to think really hard on my favorite picture book. There are just so many wonderful ones! It's difficult to pick a favorite.

Carla said...

DU, I read some of Beatrix Potter's actual books for the first time a few weeks ago. My almost 4-year old loved them. It was amazing.

Laura, I think I would have more fun drawing monsters too! It really is hard to pick a favorite picture book!

Kenda said...

Have you ever read "The Monster at the End of This Book, Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover" ? That's a fun one!

Megan K. Bickel said...

I love that your memory of finding this book is so vivid! The classics are classics for a reason. Thanks for participating!

libraryvoice.org said...

So true. Sendak is a master and WtWTA is still as fresh, exciting, and delightfully subversive today as it was back in the 60's.

Christie Wright Wild said...

Yes, very cool book. I still haven't seen the movie. I do remember buying my first school book fair book. It was a chapter book, though. Ghost in My Soup. Still have it, too.

Carla said...

Kenda, I LOVE that book! So does every child I've ever read it to!

Megan, thanks for hosting...this was fun!

Libraryvoice, Sendak really is a genius. I love how he deals with childhood anger.

Christie, I'll admit I was afraid the movie would ruin it, but they did a decent job. Ah, book fairs. ;)

nutschell said...

I love that book! But My favorite childhood book would be Richard Scarry's 365 stories. I practically destroyed that book with love because I used to carry it with me everywhere I went as kid. I've been trying to look for it but I guess it's been out of print for a while.

KO: The Insect Collector said...

such a classic-- LOVE to read this to my kids

Faith Pray said...

I love reading about your helicopter moment, and I love hearing about Sendak's journey to the finished book. Thanks!

Dawn Embers said...

Excellent choice. Good to know that picture book authors also do more than one draft. Some people seem to think it's easy to write but there is more to it that some may realize.

Claudia Del Balso said...

Can't say I recall this book you speak of. My favorite childhood book was Grimm's Fairy Tales, a collection of fairty tales by the Brothers Grimm (Germany). I absolutely loved this book even though it didn't have too many pictures. I enjoyed it all the same.

Lori said...

A huge favourite in our household, even now that the boys are grown! Once you read it, it just stays with you... Sendak is a master. His Little Bear books were favourites, too.

Funny that Potter's books were mentioned here in your thread. Like you, I was almost afraid to go with a classic in my post. But when a book has a hold on you, it has a hold that lasts. Glad you have discovered Beatrix's books and are enjoying them now with your son.

Carla said...

Nutschell, I'll need to look into 365 Stories--I haven't read it.

KO, me too! It appeals to such a huge age range!

Faith, Sendak's journey is inspiring!

Dawn, I think it takes actually trying to write a decent picture book to realize how challenging it is!

Claudia, I haven't read all the Grimm's Fairy Tales, though I have seen a few. I'll look into that too!

Lori, I've just started reading Sendak's other books. For the longest time Sendak = Where the Wild Things Are, and that was all! He has an amazing legacy.

Carla

storyqueen said...

Where the Wild Things Are is one of my absolute favorites!

So simple and beautiful and still speaks to kids so powerfully.

Shelley

Jansen Family said...

I completely agree, Shelley!

Carla

Elle Strauss said...

I've actually never read Where the Wild Things Are--I'm going to have to put in on my TBR pile!

Alison Stevens said...

A fabulous book, and one my boys want me to read on a regular basis. It is definitely still timely. :)

salarsenッ said...

Fantastic choice! Love that book. I finally am making the rounds for the blogfest and just posted my favorite PB. Nice to meet you.

Carla said...

Elle, I can't recommend it enough!

Alison, I still love it and I can practically "read" it from memory!

Salarsen, Thanks for stopping by!

Carla

Robyn Campbell said...

I signed up for this, but slept that day away. (Just had an operation.) I'm still going to post mine though. Love your choice. We have ALWAYS had to read anything Sendak to our boys and one girl. Nice to see a fellow Sendak lover. :)

Carla said...

Robyn, I'll have to check your post out! I hope your operation went well. I'm glad your family loves Sendak too!

Carla

Grillyfish said...

Bah! I cannot believe I left this book off my list! I loved this book and must find my copy on the shelf! Thanks for reminding me :)

Carla said...

Grillyfish, At least you have a copy on your shelf...this is a good thing! ;)

Carla

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