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The Wild Things Hardcover – October 13, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

Maurice Sendak's spare picture book has captured the hearts of readers for more than four decades. Critics were split, however, on whether Eggers's novel will enjoy the same long-lasting popularity. Its greatest appeal may stem from Eggers's ability to convey both the sense of wonder and the dark uncertainty that make up a typical childhood, though a few reviewers disagreed. The Times, for example, called Max's outbursts an appalling symbol of "contemporary brattish America." The Washington Post simply wished that authors would develop their own material (critics mentioned Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as a horrific literary crime, not for the first time). Overall, younger readers may find much to enjoy here, but children and adults alike should start with the original.

From Booklist

In Eggers’ novel, adapted from Spike Jonze’s film of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Max is a robust, self-reliant boy who acts out in response to his parents’ divorce. After some particularly epic mischief, he runs away, finds a boat, and sails it to a land where large, destructive beasts are willing to recognize him as their king—but Max, as it turns out, is not a particularly good king. There are many pleasant surprises here, from the personalities of the wild things to the dreamlike particulars of their world. But it doesn’t feel like an organically grown story. Whether because of this book’s unique origins, or Eggers’ execution, or even the familiarity of the picture book, the drama here, unfortunately, comes less from Max’s adventures than from our interest in seeing how Eggers has managed the adaptation. Where Sendak’s book contains multitudes in a dozen sentences, Eggers uses nearly 300 pages to tease out a number of ideas, and his book still feels too long. Billed as an “all-ages novel,” The Wild Things feels too grown-up for most children and too childlike for most grown-ups. Its association with the movie may boost sales, but the book seems unlikely to last long in the popular imagination. --Keir Graff

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934781614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934781616
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including "Zeitoun," a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and "What Is the What," a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine ("The Believer"), and "Wholphin," a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jack Holden on October 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am a long-time Eggers fan. And while I liked the original book when I was a kid and I think the movie looks good, the only reason I read this book is because Eggers wrote it.

All of the protagonists in Eggers' previous books are adults. It is interesting to see how he handles Max as his main character. Max's parents are divorced, his older sister ignores him, his mother's boyfriend is embarassing and incompetent, and he rarely sees his father. He loves his mom but she is swamped with work and he has to fight for her attention. On top of that, his neighborhood is being torn down and re-developed. His friends' parents are overprotective and frown upon Max riding his bike around alone. He is scolded in gym class for playing too rough, and his neurotic science teacher expounds at length about how everything and everyone will someday expire, even the sun will eventually burn out. Eggers' descriptions of a modern American childhood are spot-on. A lot of younger readers can intensely relate to Max, and older readers can gain a perspective on what it's like to grow up with a single-parent in American suburbia.

As far as the actual wild things go, Eggers has said that his goal with this book was to not so much show "where the wild things are" but rather "who the wild things are". These characters have real fears, hopes, passions, and relationships with each other. A lot of the wild things are not all that different from the humans in Max's life, except with these new creatures, Max finds himself in a position of leadership and control. The relationships between Max and the wild things are very moving and again, very true to human interactions people deal with every day.

People who read this book because they enjoyed the original story or the movie will be very satisfied.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Murillo on October 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I disagree with the major review at the start of these reviews list. I think this is one kind of book if it's to be read by kids 8-12 and another if it's to be read by adults or even by adults to children. What the review above failed to mentioned is that Maurice Sendak actually asked Dave Eggers to publish this novel, and to flesh out the screenplay into a complete narrative. It's clear to me why he wanted to do this.

On one side, for children reading the book, it's a bit dark, psychological, and tense. I think without a parent to mitigate and dampen the effect of the Wild Things' more wild inclinations (wanting to eat what makes them unhappy), I think the book might be a bit overwhelming for the a few 8-12 year olds. I can imagine that it would, however, tickle the minds of many.

This isn't a typical children's story, and it doesn't aim to be, just like the original. It's about complicated childhood drama, and the feelings so many of us have when we want to run away as children. It's about that very real feeling that even in the places we love, we can feel alone, scared, and even betrayed. This sometimes, or in my experience with kids of this age group, leads us to do regrettable, childish things--run away for an evening, hide somewhere for a prolonged period of time, knock stuff over, yell, essentially misbehave. As if the dissolving of structure and certainty makes us want to return somewhere wild, and that's exactly what Max does, and what many of us have done.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Maurice Sendak created a picture-book classic with his book "Where The Wild Things Are," about a young boy named Max who frolics with strange beasts. That story is merely the backbone of Dave Eggers' strange fantasy novel "The Wild Things," which tries to flesh out the story of Max and the wild things... but while he does an admirable job expanding individual characters, the plot remains as thin as ever.

Max is sick of the people who surround him (a weary mother, a distant older sister, and assorted friends and neighbors) and still troubled by the divorce that left his family fragmented. So he often acts out -- throwing snowballs, drenching his sister's room, and playing pranks on his mother's dumb-grunt boyfriend. One night he puts on an old pair of wolf pajamas and goes on a rampage through his house, finally biting his mother when she tries to restrain him.

Horrified, he runs out of the house and ends up trying to sail a small boat to the city where his father lives... only to end up on a strange island populated entirely by monstrous wild things. Their only interest is in in having whatever kind of highly-destructive fun they want, and Max soon joyously joins in on their rampaging... having convinced them to crown him their king. But the land of the wild things is not a safe place, and Max soon discovers that "erratic and wild" has its unpleasant side...

The whole idea behind "The Wild Things" is to take Sendak's picture book and resculpt it as a novel. And David Eggers does a pretty good job fleshing it out, using Max's "everyday" life and troubled family to show why this kid would want to join up with the Wild Things.
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