Tuesday, January 29, 2008

a cherished childhood book

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind,
and another,
his mother called him "wild thing" and Max said, "I'll eat you up!"
so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
That very night in Max's room, a forest grew, and grew,
and grew until his ceiling hung with vines
and the walls became the world all around.
And an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max
and he sailed off through night and day,
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
To where the wild things are.

--from Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

I told a fib in my comments today. I didn't mean to, but it slipped out. At the time, it felt like the truth. Then later, I remembered.

There is a book I have two copies of other than the Bible. It is the wonderful children's book quoted above. The copy my parents bought for me is put away, wrapped carefully to preserve it, even though it is an old paperback copy that probably cost just a few dollars. The copy I bought for my daughter when she was still a baby is on the bookshelf in my youngest son's room.

This was my favorite book growing up. There are a handful of books I have from my childhood, but this is the most precious to me. It is the one book my father would read to me over and over again. If I wanted to hear about Swimmy or a little bunny, I would have to take the book to my mother. But if I wanted to hear about Max, and wolf suits, and sailing in and out of time, Daddy would oblige.

He read the book to me complete with voices: a naughty little boy voice and roaring, teeth gnashing wild thing voices. I always giggled hysterically, but truth be told, I was a little scared.

I couldn't wait to read it to my lovely daughter. I knew I'd have to wait until she was a certain age, although I had no idea what that age might be. I bided my time reading Pat the Bunny or The Poky Little Puppy.

One day, my little girl toddled out of her room with her copy of my favorite children's book in hand. We read it. Then we read it again. Then another time. It was our bedtime book that night and for many, many nights thereafter. I read it to her so many times that I can still quote most of it to you today, word for word. When nothing else would calm her in the car or the store, I would quietly recite that beginning passage. It worked every single time.

I quoted the passage above from memory. There might be a word or two wrong, but I doubt it. Even after all of this time, and two more children who also demanded multiple readings, I still love it. Someday, a day not very soon at all mind you, I bet that I'll have a child or two who will be buying that book for their baby's nursery.


laurie said...

that is a great, great book.

and did you know that Maurice Sendak doesn't particularly like kids?

Kim said...

If I remember correctly, Maurice Sendak spent a great deal of his childhood ill, which is when he started drawing and crafting stories. I think he's an example of someone who writes for himself and happens to still remember what it's like to be a child.

We love all of his things. One of the kids' favorites is a dvd that has "Really Rosie", "Don't Care Pierre", and quite a few other things on it. And "The Night Kitchen", of course. All of his work is so clever and it never panders to children. I think he's brilliant.

the rotten correspondent said...

That was one of my kid's favorite books. It was one of the few things they could actually agree on. And I loved it, too.

Have you seen the t-shirts? They make them for kids and adults. Now I'm trying to remember where I saw them.

the rotten correspondent said...

Oh! I'd forgotten Really Rosie. With Carly Simon. Loved that, too!

The Green Stone Woman said...

Being Dutch, I am not familiar with that book at, although I vaguely remember hearing about it. Possibly I should have been reading my children this book when they were little, if I had only known about it. It sounds very imaginative and we certainly were not adverse to that. Yes, I am sure I have heard of this book, but didn't realize its significance. Being a Dutch Mom to two American children was sometimes a tough job, because sometimes I missed out on the obvious things that American mothers would have known about. I was such a babe in the woods, just like Max in his adventure.

ped crossing said...

I don't really remember that book from my childhood. I might just have to borrow copy and read it to the boys.

Kim said...

I haven't seen the t-shirts, RC, but I remember seeing all kinds of soft toys and things like that, so it doesn't surprise me.

I don't know how old your kids are, Irene, but I do remember they are grown. This book won the Caldecott Award in 1963, so people my age and just a bit older were little when it was brand new.

It's a wonderful, imaginative book, Ped. I bet your boys would love it.

aminah said...

thats Eli's favourite book...I love the illustrations!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

There's always one or two on the shelf that the children treasure. Amy has a few that she enjoys reading when she goes to bed.

Crystal xx

elizabethm said...

This was my son's favourite book when he was a child and I too could recite whole chunks from memory. Great book and wonderful illustrations.

willowtree said...

Pat the Bunny, I love that...no wait, sorry, I'm thinking of Smack the Monkey. Never mind.

Jen said...

This is also a fave of TFYO. I'm just so happy that she shares her father's and my love of books. She particularly likes to read this book at bedtime if she's had a bad day.