I have not read the children’s book ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak for about eight years since my sister was about three or four. It is a book that has always stayed with me though, it’s a children’s cult classic in a way. Though cult makes it sound like its doing bad things to children’s brains and this book doesn’t to my knowledge. When I saw Dave Eggers had written a ‘cross-over’ version of the book I decided I would have a go at reading it. I was slightly dubious that this would be a cash cow as the movie, which Eggers is very much involved with, comes out very soon which is an amalgamation of the new book and the old.
The Wild Things is the tale of Max and an adventure he has after he runs away from home. His parents have divorced in the not too distant past and now he lives with his mother, his sister Claire and his mothers boyfriend (a toy boy) Gary. His mother is very busy with her career two children and a new partner. His sister is very busy ignoring him and becoming a woman, no longer with so much time for Max. His Dad doesn’t really figure very much as he lives in the city. So this young boy is going through quite a bag of emotions culminating in a huge rebellion where he ends up running away and trying to sail to his fathers. He doesn’t end up there instead he finds an island inhabited by some very strange beasts who he befriends and even becomes King of. Though Kings need to be able to have all the answers and if they don’t, like young boys don’t always, they might just get eaten.
It’s an interesting book. For me as an adult I found it slightly flawed, the first half was utterly brilliant and very entertaining. Though do be warned Max rebels in some truly naughty ways and it could give your children ideas, or even yourself, and yet there seems to be no thought to the consequences of such actions which leaves certain parts of the book feeling a little unfinished. Why doesn’t Max’s mother punish him for covering his sister’s room in water?
Sadly once on the island no plot seemed abounds (maybe that is the idea) there also didn’t seem to be any reasoning behind the monsters behaviour and yet I felt that Eggers was trying to teach children something. There is a war which goes out of hand yet like certain parts of the first half of the book it is left unresolved and yet I felt the author was trying to make a point. There is also a monster, Carol, who starts of being the sort of beast you would all want as a friend as a child who then turns out to be quite something else and you never really knew why or what the point was other than a reason for Max to want to go home, something he hadn’t wanted to at all until that point.
By the end of the book I couldn’t work out what it was trying to say and if in fact it was a book that tried to incorporate an old classic picture book with no real idea of why it was doing it other than a movie tie-in as I had half suspected. I could see Eggers was trying to show a confused boy who is going through a situation where everything going on leads him to being angry all the time. I just didn’t get any redeeming features with this child who only wanted to cause wars and devastation and in a way I thought there should be. Nothing seemed to be resolved until the end of the book when everything was. I don’t mind books which have unresolved endings but if the middle is a mixture of unresolved motives thoughts and plots it seems confusing. That’s just me though.
All in all its good fun for children, I bet it’s a thrill to read to children actually… if you want them to run amuck that is as the monsters are wonderful! Maybe some teenagers will enjoy it though I think it might be a bit young in parts and confusingly undrawn in others. I enjoyed it but it confused me, I ended the book thinking ‘what was the point’ I then saw an advert on the telly for the movie and thought ‘oh that’s the point’.
I did like Eggers writing though and would like to read something original of his, I have heard that his novel ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; is very good. Have any of you read that or any of his other work? Which cross-over books have worked for you? What are your thoughts on new interpretations of old classics? Can any authors re-write young children’s books to appeal to older kids and adults?