Customer Review

86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual, but Enthralling Sendak Picture Book, May 19, 2002
This review is from: Outside Over There (Caldecott Collection) (Paperback)
Sendak's work almost always takes a reader by surprise. His themes are not comfortable ones, particularly for parents. He deals with the internal desires of children, the kinds of things that can be interpreted as unacceptable and frightening. For instance, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, which has become a classic in children's literature is about a boy who acts out--who becomes a "wild thing" himself. His transformation back into a boy is a gradual and wonderful part of the picture book, but in no way tries to deny that the "wild thing" aspect exists.
Likewise, OUTSIDE, OVER THERE is a tale of siblings, jealousy and responsibility. The heroine is Ida, a young girl who's father is away and so Ida is left to watch her baby sister, a task she's not too fond of. Ida is much more caught up in her own world. Yet when her sister is kidnapped by goblins, Ida must go off on a magic adventure to rescue her. She's not wholly devoted to the quest at first--and nearly passes her sister right by when she becomes absorbed in the magic of the quest. In the end, she rescues her baby sister, destroys the goblins and returns home--this time firmly responsible for her sister and determined to be so until her father returns home. It is not a comfortable tale, but it is one that highlights feelings that young children may have and discusses them in a format they can identify with.
The language and pictures are beautiful and stunningly poetic, in typical Sendak style. But the story and the way its told can be frightening for some children; themes of kidnapping by goblins, the ice-baby left behind, and Ida's making the goblins dance themselves away, all conjure images that hit on some primal fears and discomforts. The author is not trying to make us comfortable, but that's what makes him such a good author. I suspect people will either love or dislike this book, I'm one who loves it but can equally understand why others might not. So, if you can, take a look at it prior to buying and certainly before you read it to younger children.
On a side note, I believe this story is the basis for the movie Labyrinth. This wonderful movie is a strong tribute to Sendak in so many little ways, but the overall premise of the movie is very similar--a girl's jealous of her new half-brother and wishes the goblins would come and take him away. They do, and she must deal with the goblin king and the challenge he sets before her in order to get her baby brother back. Fabulous movie--if you love the book, I bet you'll love the movie, or vice versa!
Happy reading! ^_^
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 4, 2009 8:42:27 PM PST
Ntshk says:
What a wonderful review. i haven't seen or read the book, but I think that the reviewer interprets the 'jealousy' theme correctly. Thank you also for the film recommendation!

Posted on Dec 22, 2009 9:54:50 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 22, 2009 10:09:57 PM PST
Hm... A very nice review, but the sibling jealousy theme is just not there. It is more like one of those Old World children tales about an older sibling rescuing another one, a empowering story that a child can do a lot in order to save a loved one. The stories about changelings abound in European folklore ( I am an Old World girl), this one seems like Polish folk tale to some extend, and Sendak's family were Polish Jews. I see the folklore roots, stories where a child i not jealous, but cares for everyone and is a hero. But I will be convinced otherwise if someone can point out where the jealousy theme appears.

The Things Out There sits very well in the tradition of brave, heroic, and loving sister story. The film Labyrinth however, has a sibling jealousy twist.

Posted on Oct 29, 2011 9:57:57 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Feb 21, 2012 6:46:02 PM PST]

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 4:55:38 PM PDT
The movie Labyrinth was inspired by this book but not based. I'll be looking into reading this book someday!
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