I’m ready for a ‘wild’ time

Published 1:43 am Saturday, October 17, 2009

“The night Max wore his wolf suit, and made mischief of one kind and another …”

That’s the first few words of what I consider one of the classic works of American literature. No, it’s not The Great Gatsby, or The Scarlet Letter, or Pride and Prejudice. Those are the first words to Maurice Sendak’s wonderful children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are.

It is hard to put into words just how much I loved this book as a child. If you asked me to try and draw the main “wild thing” from memory, I think I could do a rather accurate job, even today. I probably can’t recite every line of the book verbatim, but I could get pretty close. I read the paperback version of the book so often that it fell apart two times and my parents had to buy a new copy each time.

I also remember that my family owned a tape cassette collection that included readings of not only Where the Wild Things Are, but also some of Sendak’s other classics: Chicken Soup with Rice (A poem containing each of the 12 months, where each month always ends with “chicken soup with rice”), Alligators All-Around: An Alphabet, and Pierre (About a boy who only could say “I don’t care.”) We absolutely wore those tapes out, especially during long summer vacation trips from Gadsden, Ala., to Branson, Mo., or to visit extended family in Iowa. And yes, those were car trips, so it was a godsend to have something to entertain my younger siblings and me for a few hours. Even today, I know that if I call my brother or sister and say a random letter of the alphabet, they’ll be able to remember the little nonsense phrase that goes with it from Alligators-All Around — “Getting giggles,” “Making macaroni,” “Usually upside-down,” just to name a few.

Because of memories like those, I am so excited to see what most people would call “a children’s movie.” This weekend, filmmaker Spike Jonze’s movie adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are hits movie theaters, and I plan to make it to at least one of the showings. I can’t wait to see how it looks on the big screen when the wild things “roll their terrible eyes” and “gnash their terrible teeth” and “show their terrible claws.”

Now, I’m sure it’s possible that I could end up disappointed by watching this movie. After all, the Sendak book only takes about five minutes to read, and it’s usually hard to stretch that kind of background material into a full-length motion picture. But at this point, like Pierre, I don’t care. Even if the film is a letdown, it will be a chance for me to remember, for at least a few hours, the joy of feeling like a kid again.

As Max would say, “Let the wild rumpus start.”