Sunday Sessions: Where the Wild Things Are

Year 8 study a unit called Appropriation, my current year 8s just finished this unit, we studied Snow White and Sydney White. Last year however, I had an extension class and we studied Where the Wild Things Are the picture book and the film.

I have been a fan of the picture book ever since I was a little kid and I was surprised to see that most of the students had never read the book before and had not seen the new film version. I love both.

The picture book is short, and to the point. It was written and illustrated in 1963 by Maurice Sendak.  The basic storyline is that Max, a young boy, has a fight with his mum and gets sent to his room. While he is in there he takes an imaginative journey to the land of the Wild Things, though they are fearsome and huge, Max conquers them and becomes their king. However, as time goes on he realises he is lonely and homesick and returns to his bedroom to find his supper waiting for him. The overall moral of the story is don’t take your home for granted because in the end, it’s where you want to be.

The film is much darker than the picture book and shows Max having issues dealing with his mother dating and his sister ignoring him. Max acts out during his mum’s date and runs away from home. He jumps in a boat and ends up in the land of the Wild Things. While he is there he meets Carol, Alexander, Judith, Ira, Bernard, Douglas and KW, the Wild Things. Like the picture book, Max becomes king of the Wild Things. Certain Wild Thing’s represent a person in Max’s life and ultimately he learns, not only about himself, but about the other people in his life and how they feel. He learns compassion. Max returns to his home to apologise to his mother, and it is as if only a few hours have passed.

The meaning of each text is different, thus making it an appropriation. The year 8 students enjoyed looking at the way a children’s book can be appropriated into such a dark and meaningful film. We looked at what their Wild Thing would be, to represent themselves, and what they would have done if they were Max. The idea of the film is that there is a wild thing in all of us, so we spent quite a bit of time talking about that part of ourselves which sometimes we just cannot control. The depth of the film is incredible, and to this day, while I still love the picture book, I believe the film is a lot more relatable not only for the students but for us adults as well.

In this same Appropriation unit, I also look at Banksy with the students. Any excuse to study street art and I’ll take it. We look at many of Banksy’s appropriations, but also the reason he does these artworks. The students love learning about street art and the political messages behind these movements. They were also fascinated by the fact that no one knows who Banksy really is.


Above are some of my favourite Banksy images. If you haven’t seen, or read any of these texts, I highly recommend all of them. If Where the Wild Things Are doesn’t interest you, definitely check out Banksy.

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