on October 14, 2009
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. Eggers fans will find that this is pretty different from his other books. But the best part about Eggers' writing has always been his honest and humane portrayal of emotions and relationships, and this signature quality rings true through the Wild Things just as it does with any of his other books.
on October 24, 2009
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.
But the Wild place is wild for a reason, and I think the idea of the Wild Things Island is so extensive, and painted so broad and perfectly, that it also offers glimpse of our adult wildness, our fears, our excitements, our uncontrolled and bestial tendencies that are sudden jolts of rebellion from the world we create for ourselves.
So, on the other hand, in the large sense, I thought this book was really about growing up, about accepting responsibility, and more keenly for children, about parenting. If read to a child, this book gives an incredibly approachable (for children) account of how challenging parenting can be. I think it can allow children, with the use of metaphors that are comprehensible to them, to see themselves when they are wild, but not feel the guilt of it, and then, as a result, begin to feel an understanding for their parents and guardians as well as what it really means to cooperate and behave.
If you read the book, what I have written, will make a lot more sense. But because of this, I can see why Maurice Sendak wanted the book when his masterpiece already existed, it's because he could only tell so much about subjects that he could only vaguely allude.
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. And he writes in a beautiful, slightly surreal style full of strange moments and slightly offbeat perspectives, and manages to make the dreamlike island a more "ordinary" place than the "real" world.
The problem is that Eggers runs out of plot soon after Max floats off to the island. He starts off strong with Max's troublesome behavior and subsequent "running away" to the Island, but after the kid is crowned, he just loses focus of what the story should be. There's no real story after that -- just a patchwork of random, increasingly bizarre anecdotes where Max and the Wild things break houses, set fires, throw rocks, and occasionally play "war" with lava, boulders and land-jellyfish.
Then the Wild Things get annoyed, somebody thinks Max looks yummy, they bicker, he distracts them with a new game, and the whole cycle starts over again. It gets very tedious, until the rather bizarre climax when he ends up in real danger.
Similarly, Max and the Wild Things are handled well at first, but Eggers loses some of his magic later on. Max is convincingly and poignantly painted as an essentially good kid who is lashing out at anyone who annoys him, because of his turmoil over his parents' divorce. Similarly each Wild Thing is given their own personality -- motherly, volatile, arrogant nihilistic, and so on. The main problem is that while Max is convincingly sketched, he doesn't seem to learn anything from his island adventure except that being a wild thing is not so great.
"The Wild Things" is a striking and memorable little novella that stretches the dimensions of Sendak's book, but it's flawed by too little plot and too much "rumpusing." Almost great, but it feels like the story spun out of Eggers' grasp.
on April 13, 2016
This is a very interesting re-imagining of the Maurice Sendak classic. It is well written, but in my opinion would be a bit too dark for children. One of the delightful things about Where the Wild Things Are, is that it offers emotional relief to children, especially for those sent to their rooms. It's a way of managing anger and mixed emotions.
I think it's a good book for adults and teens, but not young children. I recommend sticking with the real thing for them.
on April 14, 2012
I read a book yesterday, Dave Eggers's "The Wild Things," which was a novelization of the screenplay he and Spike Jonze wrote for the film made from the Maurice Sendak book we all know and love.
My Lord, was that thing brilliant! If you've ever read any of Eggers's other work, you will feel the bumps of his own childhood, just as the original was striped with Sendak's sensibilities. But it's so much more than a reality-infused fairy tale. Think Gulliver's Travels, think The Life of Pi. I can't believe I got this beautiful new hardback book in perfect condition for $1.37 plus shipping. Yay Amazon. I know it was remaindered (WHY???), but I almost want to mail Dave Eggers a ten-spot to make up for the shortage.
Long time fan of Maurice Sendak's marvelously devilish and ultimately comforting book, "Where the Wild Things Are". Taught it in school. Had my kids do a play on the story (complete with paper bag masks that were fantastical). It was with trepidation and intrigue that I learned about the upcoming Spike Jones' movie. It has the potential to be really good (The Polar Express), or really awful (How the Grinch Stole Christmas). It was with equal trepidation that purchased the book based on the screenplay of the movie, "The Wild Things" by Dave Eggers. And I'm happy to report, things are looking wild.
The first thing that the book (and now, presumably the movie) really does it honor the original source material. For example, when Max is "making mischief", the mischief in the novel is real, purposeful, and truly, truly awful. This contextual Max is one that evokes pain, true childhood pain that taunt little boys. Eggers hits on something right off the bat, that Max, who is just simply rotten in the original book, now has a reason to be rotten. It's brilliant, and makes you love Max more.
Max's most rotten action leads him to escaping the house, the symbol of his confinement, and into the primeval forest that will eventual envelope him and allow him to travel. I must admit that Eggers handling of the room's changing into a forest by just having Max run into one is a bit disappointing, but understanding. Once Max makes it to the island where the named Wild Things Are, the fantastical and amazing story of Max becoming their king is rewarding, deep, and personal. And the rumpus rocks.
Eggers says that the book is very loosely based on the screenplay. If this novel is any indication, we're in line for quite a visual, and emotional, treat. In the meantime, I'll settle into my book and spend time with a very real Max.
on February 22, 2014
One of the few books I'm not ashamed to cuddle, The Wild Things at first seems unnecessary. "A YA novel based on a movie that's based on a children's picture book? Absurd!" Perish the thought - it's written by Dave Eggers who also helped write the movie, but it's also a completely different beast (no pun intended) - which is what I loved about Where The Wild Things Are when it came out - the original book is the original book, the movie is its own thing, the video game (which I love to this day) keeps the tone of the movie but makes it much more action-orientated but nonetheless beautiful with a dark ooze overtaking the island of the wild things, and this book, too, holds up the tradition of telling a completely different story in a completely different format. It still has Max sail to the Island, become king, and have it crumble around him, but it's almost like a completely different version of the movie.
Highly, highly recommended for fans of the movie, and if you can't help hugging your books.
Dave Eggers' unique adaptation of Maurice Sendak's picture book describes what life is like for so many children; they are confused, lonely, impulsive, and in need of guidance they don't know how to ask for. Using the original text as a framework, Egger's version is a great "next step" for older readers, including adults.
- Unfortunately, there is a lot of poorly written examples of children's/young adult lit circulating the market. Fortunately, this is not one of them. Dave Eggers adapts his normal prose so that is accessible to a younger crowd, but without dumbing it down.
- The characters have depth, humor, and intellect. Egger's shows the different sides of Max, his needs, and his wants through seven similar, yet different, creatures.
- Eggers includes some of the whimsy that many have comfortably attached to the picture book, but doesn't balk at including the darkness of Max's inner turmoil.
- Eggers includes Sendak's message without being corny- it's okay to escape reality once in awhile, especially if it's enlightening, but eventually, everyone must go home.
- The cover is made of fur.
Parents, keep in mind:
- I wouldn't recommend handing this novel over to children younger than twelve or so before reading it yourself, as there are some definite adult undertones. I plan on reading it aloud to my fourth grade students, but will definitely have to "edit" a few parts to keep it school appropriate.
Great novel, I definitely recommend it to older kids and adults!
When the trailer for the movie version of this book came along, it really spoke to something in me. The Arcade Fire song, Wake Up, which they recorded a special version of for the trailer, is all about the painful transition of growing up--it's not really a happy song when you listen to the lyrics. But when it was put to the images and the ultra-vibrant colors of that trailer, and Max running with the Wild Things to howl at the sea...well, it just filled me with a great swell of nostalgia--nostalgia for the sheer magic and exultant joy of childhood. I was hoping the movie and this book would do the same.
But neither are really about joy. The mood of the book is far, far more in line with the lyrics of that Arcade Fire song from the trailer:
Somethin' filled up
my heart with nothin',
someone told me not to cry.
But now that I'm older,
my heart's colder,
and I can see that it's a lie.
Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.
If the children don't grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We're just a million little god's causin rain storms turnin' every good thing to rust.
I guess we'll just have to adjust.
There is a very real sense of pain, loss and overall melancholy to these works. And while that wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, I still loved them both. The movie, I think, would be a bit too slow and dark for the average child to really sit through and understand, but after closing the cover on this book, I think had I read it as a young adult, it would have stayed with me like some of the other "classics" I read during that arguably very unsure time in my life.
You know those books you read as a young adolescent that you remember with such a loyal, passionate fondness that you almost burst to talk about them? For me, many of the Roald Dahl books, and Island of the Blue Dolphins call those feelings to mind. The Wild Things could be one of those books.
I realize that it inspired many mixed reviews, and I do see where some people might find Max to be an abhorrent kid--he does, afterall, dump seven buckets of water in his sister's room and throw an all-out temper tantrum that ends with him biting his mother. But I also feel like the reviewers are missing that Max's lashing out isn't necessarily supposed to be taken literally. It's more a representation of the battle we all go through (mostly internally) to become adults and give up our childhoods--in many cases this fight becoming even more heated due to outside conflicts, like, in the case of the book, divorce.
I will be sure when I have my own children and they reach about 10-12, to let them read this book along with my other deemed "classics" I have saved for them. I just hope they enjoy it as much as I did.
on September 11, 2014
That was fun. Fun, quick, and easy!
I haven’t seen this movie yet, and although I’m sure I read Sendak’s original book when I was little I can’t really remember anything about it whatsoever. I only picked this up because it was an Eggers book that I hadn’t gotten around to yet… well that, and I really loved the furry cover. Hopefully that let me approach this novelization (?) more as an independent work of art than as something that had to live up to my preconceived notions. Regardless, it was a really enjoyable read… nothing particularly outstanding or life-changing, but it was a fun story and a nice diversion from having to be me for a while.
The first third of the book or so was, for me, the most interesting section by far. Eggers did a really wonderful job of imparting the sense of isolation that Max was feeling. Isolation and frustration borne from, in a way, the powerlessness of a child in an adult’s world. Although Max was confused and seemed often to feel invisible, it was touching for Eggers to show the softer side of their family life as well. Everything isn’t bad and Max certainly wasn’t invisible all the time, and I really appreciated that everything about Max’s growing-up experience felt like it was fully plausible and completely normal. One minute I felt warm and comfortable sitting in the office with mother and son where the love was palpable, and the next I just wanted to scream for someone to please pay attention to me. I feel like that speaks to the talent Eggers has as an author to evoke emotion from every day scenarios – he really made me miss that feeling of closeness you have inside a family… the good times and the bad ones.
Once Max was set adrift across the water, Eggers continued with a beautiful narration of Max’s time at sea, but he actually kind of lost me once Max arrived at the island. Each of the beasts was humanized in such a way that I could care for them individually, the storytelling was vivid, and the emotions were just as real on the island as they were in the city. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but despite all of that all I really wanted the whole time Max was on the island was for him to get back home so that I could understand what happened and see the aftermath. I think that I was just so enamored with Max’s relationship with his family that I found it difficult to swap that out with the imaginative relationships he had with the creatures on the island. It still remained entertaining, and I still enjoyed reading it (especially given how quickly I was able to tear through the story), but I was never able to fully *be* Max (or the beasts) like I was before.
As much as I really did enjoy the book, I have to say that the ending was kind of a let-down too. I read the first 250-ish pages one afternoon, which just left me with a little under 50 to go. I didn’t expect that I was going to care all that much, but all the next morning I really really just wanted to go to lunch so that I could finish the book and find out what happened. As heart-warming as the ending was (and not just because I love eye-glasses…), I really didn’t get what I wanted. Sometimes those stories that leave the ultimate ending up to the reader work really well for me, sometimes they fall flat, and sometimes… sometimes I just want to know more! All-in-all, that probably speaks to the strength of the rest of the novel that I was left somewhat dissatisfied with the ending. Perhaps all I really needed to say was that, after returning from lunch, I immediately hopped online and purchased Sendak’s original along with the movie. I hope to eat them both this weekend.