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Where the Wild Things… Aren’t

Posted on 26 September 2011 by Alice

Were you scared of your book at bedtime

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as a child? If the answer’s yes, then it was probably a good book – and it was probably Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

Where the Wild Things Are

Children are generally fascinated by scary stories, the more surreal, frightening and otherwordly the better. I remember having Where the Wild Things Are soft toys too – especially the little Max doll.


Where the Wild Things Are - Toy Set


Sendak, 83, definitely produced a classic all those years ago – akin to the status that Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar has gained over the years.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Not scary, but a classic

I also remember being read a very strange (but marvellously fascinating) tale about a boy with shaggy hair and very long fingers – Struwwelpeter, a series of rhyming stories written in the late 19th Century by German author Heinrich Hoffmann.

Struwwelpeter - by Heinrich Hoffman

1907 Struwwelpeter illustration. With long fingers.

He doesn’t look like a happy chap, does he?

One of Hoffman’s lyrical tales was about Fidgety Philip – a boy who refused to sit still at the dinner table, and so knocks all the food onto the floor!

“Let me see if Philip can
Be a little gentleman;
Let me see if he is able
To sit still for once at table.”
Thus spoke, in earnest tone,
The father to his son;
And the mother looked very grave
To see Philip so misbehave.
But Philip he did not mind
His father who was so kind.
He wriggled
And giggled,
And then, I declare,
Swung backward and forward
And tilted his chair,
Just like any rocking horse;-
“Philip! I am getting cross!”

It’s interesting how Hoffman keeps the text light by using rhyme, but passes on moral messages through the tale. One Struwwelpeter tale (The Story of the Thumb-Sucker) encourages children to stop sucking their thumbs, by recounting a tale of a boy who wouldn’t… and so had his thumbs cut off.

Bedtime reading indeed!

What’s not yet clear is how classic Sendak’s latest book (and actually the only one for the past 30 years) Bumble-Ardy will become.


This little piggy went to market

Parents are apparently not very happy with the content of Sendak’s latest release – which introduces ‘difficult’ themes. According to publishers Harper Collins:

Bumble-Ardy has evolved from an animated segment forSesame Street to a glorious picture book about a mischievous pig who reaches the age of nine without ever having a birthday party. But all that changes when Bumble-Ardy throws a party for himself and invites all his friends, leading to a wild masquerade that quickly gets out of hand.

Bumble-Ardy is raised by his Aunt, because his parents ate lots of food and

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were eaten themselves – hence the question of life and death is presented head-on. Things get a bit out of hand at the party, particularly after some monsters turn up.

Why are parents worried about its content? Being orphaned and how meat gets onto plates

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I suppose could be considered ‘difficult’ topics. Maybe parents are just concerned about having to explain the nature of life and death to their children.

Maybe that’s like having to give the Birds and the Bees talk.

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