'Where the Wild Things Are' celebrates its 50th anniversary

Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's classic 'Where the Wild Things Are' still tops polls as a favorite picture book and was adapted into a film in 2009.

'Where the Wild Things Are' is written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Readers and booksellers alike will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” this weekend.

First released on Nov. 23, 1963, Sendak’s tale is the story of Max, a boy who is sent to bed without his dinner after misbehaving. Once the lights go out, Max embarks on a journey to the land of the Wild Things, who crown him their ruler. The book won the 1964 Caldecott Medal.

Sendak is also the author of such books as “In the Night Kitchen” and “My Brother’s Book.”

Since its publication, various polls have captured the love readers feel for the book, including a 2007 online survey created by the National Education Association that named “Where the Wild Things Are” as one of teachers’ 100 best books for children and a 2012 poll by Library Journal that asked readers their favorite picture book of all time. “Where the Wild Things Are” came in at number one.

“Again and again this is the ultimate picture book,” Library Journal staff wrote after the results came in, while a voter named Travis Jonker wrote, “Sendak’s 1963 book was that instrumental in ushering in the modern age of picture books. While tackling themes of anger and loneliness, Sendak created one of the few picture books that still seems fresh after decades in print.” 

The book was adapted into a mostly well-received live-action movie in 2009 directed by Spike Jonze, with actor Max Records portraying the protagonist and actors James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, and Catherine O’Hara portraying various Wild Things.

Writer Dave Eggers took on the screenplay for the movie and told USA Today he was taken aback when his mother first read “Where the Wild Things Are" to him.

“I was used to tidier narratives with a clear message of who's good and who's bad,” he said. “But Sendak's monsters weren't simple or cute…. I was always into monsters, but nobody did them better than Sendak.”

Some bookstores will be holding anniversary celebrations to celebrate "Where the Wild Things Are," including Albuquerque store Bookworks, the staff of which scheduled a morning party based around both the anniversary and the coming holiday.

"Let's be thankful for Maurice Sendak and the Where the Wild Things Are 50th Anniversary!" the store wrote on its website, also asking guests to "please wear Wild Things themed attire if you can."

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