Where The Wild Things Are

Reading notes for Where The Wild Things Are

Reading to and with your child is crucial to their development, not only to aid literacy but also to help them understand the story and its messages in relation to the world around them. Every classic story has an underlying theme, usually several. Using these simple techniques, you can help your child to expand on the ideas in their favourite books, do some fun activities together, and foster their imagination as well as giving context to what they have learned.

In her monthly series, Justine Wall shares ideas on how to interpret some of the best books for boys. The activities are intended to be read by, or to, your child, depending on age.

No 1: Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. (Ages 2-11)

The Story

Max misbehaves at home and is reprimanded by his mother who calls him a ‘Wild Thing’. Max is sent to his room without any supper. Here he imagines a series of wild places and things, an environment where he tames the wild creatures and proclaims himself their king. He emerges from his reverie only to find himself in his bedroom, with his hot supper waiting for him.

Talking Points

  • Was Max’s mum right to call him a ‘Wild Thing’?
  • Should children be punished?
  • Why don’t we see Max’s mother in the book?
  • Was Max right not to have given the Wild Things any supper?
  • Was he a good King?
  • What do you think Max’s mother was feeling when she sent him to his room?
  • Why did she end up giving him his supper?
  • Were there any brothers and sisters in the story?




Max’s mother calls him a ‘Wild Thing’, which is probably why Max then imagines the Wild Things in his bedroom. What phrases and words do your parents say to you at home that often sound strange? Think about it. ‘There’ll be hell to pay!’ or ‘Cuddle-bunny’ are often rather strange things to say if you were actually to imagine them.

How would you draw someone ‘paying hell’? How would you draw a ‘Cuddle-bunny?’ Think about the phrases and words your parents sometimes say to you. Write them down, and then underneath each one, draw what you imagine it to be like.

Max was punished by being sent to his bedroom without supper. We all have different rules for behaviour and conduct in our families. Think about your family, and what happens when you misbehave, or when you are good. Are you punished and rewarded? If you were to change the rewards and punishment in your house, how would you change them?

Devise a chart of new rewards and punishments: come up with 3 punishments and 3 rewards. They could be anything, from having something game taken away if you misbehave, to having a treat if you do something well.

Max’s mother sent him to his room because she felt he was up to mischief. Draw and colour a poster titled ‘House Rules’ with ten rules for your family, and display it somewhere where everyone can see it. Rules could be ‘We take our plates to the dishwasher after meals’ or ‘We always ask everyone how their day was at the table’

Max imagines wild things with ‘terrible teeth’ that look scary, but they are the ones who end up being scared of Max. Even though Max’s mother punishes him, she brings his supper to him, which shows that she loves him. On a large piece of paper using colouring pens, divide the page in half. On the left side, list all the things you don’t like or are afraid of. It might be spiders, or the dark. On the right side of the page, list the things you love, and the things your parents do to show you they love you.

Once you’ve filled both sides up, tear the page in half, and crumple up the fears and throw them in the bin. Then stick the list of things you love on your bedroom wall, or somewhere where you know you can look at them whenever you feel like it.

If Max’s mother had called him something else, he may have gone off to a completely different place. Imagine what else Max’s mother might have said and draw the creatures and the place that Max might have gone to. Look at Maurice Sendak’s drawing style to help you.

Max’s mother has power over Max because she sends him to his room and he listens to her. When Max arrives with the Wild Things, he too wants power over them and becomes King, only to find that he becomes rather lonely when he doesn’t treat the Wild Things nicely.

Decide in your family that everyone will become King or Queen for a day. Make a crown, which they will wear (a weekend or holiday may work best for this). Whoever is the King or Queen for the day is allowed to do anything they want – within reason! They will choose what to eat, when to eat, where to go and what to do with your family. Everyone is entitled to their day: and everyone in the family has to respect their wishes.

Justine Wall is a teacher, designer and writer. She has a 6 year old son. Her perfect winter Sunday is spent cooking for friends followed by a blustery walk on Salisbury Plain. Follow Justine on Instagram @hectorandhaddock and twitter on @HectorHaddock or visit Hector and Haddock.

How often do you read with your child? Is there a book that you would like Justine to explore? Let us know below.