Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Page to Screen

This may come as a complete surprise to some of you, but I never really had a lot of children's books as a child.

Which is ironic, as I collect original book illustrations and have more children's book writer and illustrator friends than you can shake a stick at.

That's not to say I didn't read a lot as a kid. On the contrary, I read everything I could get my hands on. I started reading chapter books pretty early on. But picture books never really had a place in my library as a kid. My parents just never bought them. I remember the only place I ever regularly saw the kind of books most kids read... The Cat in the Hat, Are You My Mother, etc. was at Uncle Max's house. I'd spend every Thursday after school at his house reading "the classics". It's only been in my adult, professional life that I've come to love the picture book.

Today I took my kids to see Where the Wild Things Are, admittedly with a little trepidation. Many have noted that one will either love or hate this movie, based on how much one is invested in the mythology of the book. That's not quite right. You will either love or hate Wild Things, but not necessarily because of the book.

This is a movie about anger and frustration. As I sat in the dark theater beside my son, Fletcher, I was confronted by the monsters I faced as a child... and the monsters he faces today. I'm afraid the only way one can truly appreciate this film is to have been a wild thing, and then to have raised a wild thing. The adaptation will not speak to everyone.

To those who have worn Max's wolf suit though, it's a reminder of how hard it is to face a world before you're prepared.