Post first published in my personal newsletter
The idea of a troublesome boy wearing a wolf costume is one of the coolest Ideas ever in children's books. Add an imaginary land full of monsters that he can be with and lead and you have a serious idea for a children's book. This book was before it's time. but it certainly is not perfect.
You're thinking, Ben, this is one of the best kids books of all time. you don't know what you're talking about and for the most part I might Agree. the idea of this book fricking rocks, its illustrations are so unique and well done. and there is a definite narrative that is exciting for children.
When the book came out in 1963 psychologists actually attacked the writing, saying it promoted bad parenting and was too scary for children. as a kid I can tell you, there were much more scary things in the world then being friends with a big fluffy monster. I have no idea what they were talking about there. but I kinda agree with the bad parenting.
If I was Maurice Sendak, I would have told them this:
First off, this kid is a dick, there is no saving that. He puts nails in the wall and chases a little bichon dog with a fork. The whole time he's not even having fun. I mean I know he's pretending to be a wolf but damn. I do however have to hand it to him, eventually, he does get in trouble. His mom tells him to go to his room without supper (this is the bad parenting part) and he basically tells her to shove it while simultaneously obeying her. Mad respect, but this isn't the lesson of the story. This is the set up.
I think that is where people get it wrong. The lesson comes when he becomes a leader of monsters. He is a great leader for a few pages but then his leadership style reflects his shitty parenting. I think this is less about the kids and more about teaching parents not to suck.
This is a hugely imaginative story, and used to be very controversial. At first look I HATED IT and wanted to write a crappy review, but upon further research, realizing others hated it too. I wanted to find the good, and on second glance I see a lot.
The art here is, of course, classic. the writer/illustrator did a phenomenal job with the illustrations. I still think this book an amazing work, but it is certainly not geared for kids. But if your kids can understand the responsibility of leadership I think that is a very important lesson for them to eventually learn.
I was so excited about the idea of this book I just had to make a poster. you can now purchase the print online.