There aren’t many books I really remember having read to me in childhood – Beatrice Potter, especially the scary one with the squirrel, Anatole the French mouse and the Tiger Who Came To Tea (although I may have imagined that).
But I still remember the way I felt about Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. The way Max’s safe bedroom walls melted away to forest and moonlight left me shuddering with fear. Then the boy alone on a boat over the year’s oceans chilled me more than the sight of the wild things.
As a result, I didn’t read it to Boy One and Boy Two – I didn’t want to terrify them too with yellow eyed horribleness.
Then someone gave Boy Three a copy. He picked it up the other night and I couldn’t lure him away with Poppy Cat, Hairy Maclary or even Tim’s fascinating trip to the doctor.
“I want wild things,” he asserted.
So I read it. “Bye-bye wild things,” he sighed wistfully at the end of the book but perked up at the news that Max’s supper was there – and still hot. Now he wants the book every night.
The book, apparently, is about conflict and anger – about how small children are buffeted by strong, dark emotions. Funny isn’t it? These days I’d like nothing better than sleeping in a forest and I have enjoyed days on a small boat with mostly myself for company. I still don’t much like conflict, anger and strong, dark emotions though.
Boy Three on the other hand – so cheered by Max’s steaming supper – much prefers his plateful to be cooled to tepid. My little King of the Wild Things.