10 Fun Facts About Where The Wild Things Are

UnknownNet Photography via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In Maurice Sendak's 1963 children’s book, Max, a little boy in a wolf costume, is sent to bed without supper. So he sails on a boat to a faraway land where he tames the Wild Things, becomes their king, and leads them on a wild rumpus. Here's more on this spare, strange, classic book.

1. THE BOOK WAS ORIGINALLY WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE.

Sendak was working as a children's book illustrator when editor Ursula Nordstrom (who also did Charlotte's Web and Goodnight Moon) offered to let him write his own book. He came up with the title Where The Wild Horses Are, which Nordstrom thought was "so poetic and evocative," according to Sendak. Then Sendak, who was a self-taught artist, discovered that he couldn't draw horses. When he told Nordstrom his problem, she said in an icy tone, "Maurice, what can you draw?"

"Things," he replied.

2. THE "THINGS" WERE BASED ON SENDAK'S JEWISH RELATIVES.

When developing the monsters for the book, Sendak drew on his childhood memories of his immigrant relatives. His uncles and aunts would come on Sundays and "all say the same dumb things," he recalled. "How big you are, how fat you got, and you look so good we could eat you up. So the only entertainment was watching their bloodshot eyes and how bad their teeth were. You know, children are monstrously cruel about physical defects—the hair curling out of the nose, the weird mole on the side of the head. And so, you would glue in on that and then you talk about it with your brother and sister later. And they became the Wild Things."

3. "WILD THING" ALSO REFERENCES A YIDDISH TERM.

As a child, when Sendak was driving his mother nuts, she would call him "vilde chaya," or wild animal in Yiddish. In the book, the mother calls Max "Wild thing!" and he says, "I'll eat you up!"

4. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE WAS ABOUT SENDAK'S CHILDHOOD.

Sendak repeatedly said he didn’t try to write for children, he just tried to write about himself and people he knew. The books were a form of self-expression for him. Where The Wild Things Are was based on his experiences living as a child in Brooklyn with his hard-working father and emotionally unbalanced mother.

"That’s what art is. I mean, you don't make up stories, you live your life," he said, adding, "I was not Max. I did not have the courage that Max had, and I did not have the mother that Max had."

5. BUT SENDAK DID GO TO BED WITHOUT HIS SUPPER—ALTHOUGH VOLUNTARILY.

"I often went to bed without supper because I hated my mother’s cooking,” he said. “So, to go to bed without supper was not a torture to me. If she were going to hurt me, she would make me eat.”

6. A PROMINENT PSYCHIATRIST DENOUNCED THE BOOK WITHOUT READING IT.

Where The Wild Things Are was an immediate popular and critical success, winning the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Most Distinguished Picture Book. It was also frequently banned for having scary or dark undertones and for a lack of moralizing. In 1969, psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim mentioned the book in his column for Ladies' Home Journal, saying that it would cause fear of desertion in children. He asserted that Sendak didn't understand "the incredible fear it evokes in the child to be sent to bed without supper, and this by the first and foremost giver of food and security—his mother."

Although Bettelheim later admitted he hadn't read the 37-page book, the criticism stuck with Sendak. From then on, he called him "Brutal-heim."

7. THERE'S A WILD THINGS OPERA.

Composer Oliver Knussen wrote a one-act opera based on Where The Wild Things Are, which premiered in Brussels in 1980. Since the Things are unnamed in the book, for the opera, Sendak gave them the names of his relatives: Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile, and Bernard.

8. DISNEY ANIMATED A SHORT CARTOON FEATURING MAX.

In 1983, Disney owned the film rights to Where The Wild Things Are. While an animated feature never materialized, they did make an animated short about the book to demonstrate 3D animation.

There’s also a 1973 cartoon of the book, directed by Gene Deitch.

9. THE LIVE-ACTION FILM WAS MORE FOR ADULTS THAN KIDS.

The 2009 movie, like the book, was criticized for its darker tone. Director Spike Jonze said his goal "wasn't to make a children's movie. I wanted to make a movie about childhood." The struggle over tone led Jonze to move the film from Universal to Warner Bros., where there were more arguments over how to translate the book into live action. When the film came out, it was marketed to adults rather than to children.

10. DESPITE BEING SENDAK'S BIGGEST BOOK, HE HATED THE IDEA OF WRITING A SEQUEL. 

Sendak didn't know why Where The Wild Things Are was such a hit, but one thing was for sure: he sure as hell wasn't going to write a follow-up.

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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iStock

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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