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A Wild Thing

from Where the Wild Things Are

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By Elen

A photo of mother and child reading a book Where The Wild Things Are

Arthur, my son, is four-years-old.  My sister gave him a wolf suit for Christmas and he won’t take it off.  He wears it in bed, he wears it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He wears it to the shops and the swings, on his scooter and while feeding ducks. And he likes me to read ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ every night before he goes to sleep. His big sister, Rosie nearly loved the Wild Things as much as he does when she was his age, although she didn’t insist on dressing like Max at all times.

When I was first asked who my favourite children’s book character was I forgot about my Max and his Wild Things – perhaps because they’ve become so integral in my life. Instead, I dug into the past and retrieved Ellie from ‘The Waterbabies’ by Charles Kingsley. My affection for this character was simple – I was also called Ellie, my little brother was called Tom, and we both loved swimming. But, this Victorian novel has not aged well. It is not satisfying to read as an adult and it has none of the big heartedness of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Thing. What I need from a favourite book character is a big heart and an adventurous soul – I need a boy dressed in a wolf suit who wants to rumpus around.

As soon as I saw Katherine Rundell dressed as a Wild Thing. I knew that my poem would be about Arthur. And I remembered this wonderful anecdote from ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ author, Maurice Sendak. He wrote:

“Once, a little boy sent me a charming card, with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.”

Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

Meanwhile, I’m 20,000 words into a novel about a girl who eats books.. So there it was. Some serendipity – my boy, a wolf suit, an interest in eating words and a boy called Jim who loved Maurice Sendak’s card so much he ate it. What a compliment.

The 26 writing group has worked with The Story Museum as part of its 26 Characters exhibition. The group have produced a collection of poems, and couldn’t resist being part of the gallery of favourite characters.

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