Study Guide

Where the Wild Things Are Genre

By Maurice Sendak


Children's Literature, Picture Book

It's for the Kids

The main character in Where the Wild Things Are, Max, is a child. But that's not what makes the book children's literature. Where the Wild Things Are is kid lit because it's written for children in a way that appeals to and entertains them. Sure, it has some deep themes that can be (and have been) analyzed exhaustively by adults, but the truth remains that Maurice Sendak set out to write this tale for children, and they are its intended audience.

Pretty as a Picture

With its full pages of stunning pictures, including a six-page spread showing the highlights of the "wild rumpus" (30-35), it's no surprise that Where the Wild Things Are won the coveted Caldecott Medal soon after its publication. And Sendak's illustrations of fanciful creatures on an island with pink and gold palm trees do more than mesmerize. Yes, they transport us to a magical realm, but they also capture Max's moods perfectly and help to move the narrative along.

Where the sparse text leaves off, the pictures take over, and that's the real purpose of a picture book—not simply to illustrate what the text has already told us, but to give us even more information. That's why picture books are so great for beginning readers. Kids can get a lot of what they need from the illustrations, but not quite everything. And that's a great motivator for getting them to figure out how to decode the text.