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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

At last. After 93 episodes, Kate and I have finally come face-to-face with the great Sendak masterpiece. Why did I decide to do the book today, rather than wait until we hit the 100th episode mark? Because, my friends, today is an auspicious day in and of itself. Today Fuse 8 n’ Kate the podcast officially becomes a School Library Journal property. You won’t see any changes on your end, but believe me, we’ve been cleaning up our act a bit. Our episodes, you may have noticed, are now a tight 30 minutes. We’ll be having more guest stars as well, which should be fun.

But for today’s book, we finally hit the title that appeared at #1 on my Top 100 Picture Books poll, both times that I conducted it. Does it deserve its everlasting fame and glory? Find out for yourself as Kate and I pick the darn thing apart. And believe me, there is a special kind of challenge in finding new things to say about this old chestnut.

Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, PlayerFM, or your preferred method of podcast selection.

Show Notes:

I am intrigued by Kate’s theory that this isn’t a wolf suit at all, but rather a tailored cat suit. I like the idea that the mom was asked by Max to provide him with one, purchased this, and then just made a wolf-like tail at the end. And considering how magnificent that tail is, I think she doesn’t get quite enough credit for her tailoring skills.


Kate’s theory is that they’re playing that schoolyard game where you have to make the other guy fall off of the monkey bars.

And this guy? Clearly he lost.

Not only does Max get supper after his behavior . . . he gets cake. CAKE!

The most famous final line in children’s literature? Probably:

Here is something I wrote up when this book appeared as #1 on my poll:

In terms of the scary factor (which is to say, whether kids would end up traumatized by the book) Nordstrom has this to say on the subject: “I think this book can frighten only a neurotic child or a neurotic adult.”  Later in Dear Genius (the collection of her letters) there’s an amusing note from 1974 from Ursula to Sendak where she mentions that Fran Manushkin wants to know if Sendak will be changing the last word in the book.  Says Nordstrom, “As you know, new plates are being made and before the new edition comes out we wonder if you want to change the last word from ‘hot’ to ‘warm.’  I can’t for the life of me remember the history of all this but I believe we heard from a couple of children (or their rotten parents) that ‘and it was still warm’ would be better than ‘and it was still hot’ because children don’t like hot foot [sic].  Listen, have you ever had such great editorial comment in your life?”  For some reason I like this little passage very very much, though “hot” is clearly the superior word.

Here is the 1983 CGI clip of the movie that was never made from this book:

  • At one point I mention a great site called Terrible Yellow Eyes which solicited unique Wild Things art from a variety of different artists. It hasn’t been updated in years but it’s still out there for you to see.
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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Fran Manushkin says:

    Betsy, it has taken me years go discern the sneaky cleverness of Miss Nordstrom: she told Sendak that the suggestion to change the word “hot” to “warm” came from me, so that any anger from Mr. Sendak about this cockamamie idea would be directed at the foolish young editor who suggested it instead of his awesomely brilliant boss who can do no wrong. Yes, that’s how tricky she was!

    • I KNEW it! It seemed weird that she’d do it that way. Did he see through the ruse?

      • Fran Manushkin says:

        I think he read Ursula’s letter and dismissed the suggestion within the blink of an eye. He and Ursula knew the book was perfect. Why she bothered to write the letter is the really odd thing to me.

  2. Judy Weymouth says:

    Thank you for this, Betsy. A few weeks ago I read a blog post about Where the Wild Things Are on Tales of an Elementary School Librarian (May 7-11???) titled “Waning Crescents and Wild Things”. The topic was the changing moon in the illustrations. New information for me and I wanted to be sure you knew about this post.

  3. The big psychological aspect I thought of for this (that you didn’t ever quite say), is that it is a kid dealing with very big emotions. Sometimes all a kid needs is to have their emotions validated and named, for them to be able to tame them

  4. Sarah Flowers says:

    “Rumpus,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, goes back at least to the 18th century:
    1. A riot, an uproar, a disturbance; a row, a noisy dispute.
    1745 J. Wynter Les Badinages 20 This Man cou’d make as great a Noise and a Rumpus as Swift’s Peter.
    1796 M. Robinson Angelina I. 188 ‘So! Miss Clarendon,’ said he, ‘you have made a fine rumpus in the family!’
    1768 Boston Gaz. 21 Mar. 3/1 The Evening concluded without Riot, or Rumpus.
    1800 in Spirit of Public Jrnls. (1801) 4 115 Musical rumpus; or more than was promised in the bills.