The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

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The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The well-known and much-loved picture book turned into a full-length novel, suitable either for the under-tens or adults - for very differing reasons.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 978-0241144220

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Meet Max. When I say he sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick about adults, or dislikes his mother's new boyfriend, or gets a bit feisty when he feels the need for revenge, I am certainly understating the facts. He is a bit of a rascal to say the least. But all that might change when he finds himself travelling to a strange land of roisterous animals, and ends up installed as their king.

Now while I freely admit to reading and reviewing a wide range of titles, I don't really do picture books. So I know very little about the original Maurice Sendak picture book. But here Dave Eggers has turned the few words of that well-loved classic into a screenplay for a film, and this full novel, which offers up a true family book spirit, with a child in a strange world well realised for the adult reader, and a dramatic fantasy for the under-tens.

I suspect that those who have grown up with the brevity of the original might find the long time before Max starts on his journeys a little bit of a surprise. But they know what is to come - the discovery of a handful of unusual characters from the world of monsters. It's Max's own personality and character that is to the fore here, however - this is just as much an internal study of a young lad as it is an adventure story.

The adult reading this - either for himself or for her children - will see the young Max as a template for battles between the ego, superego and id, as he struggles to get his way in life, and finds out he cannot always have it all his own. The young might spot the moral of the boy finding responsibility is not great - but then neither are rampant hedonism and joyous days everlasting.

Children will accept this as a fantasy drama, but I don't think it's perfect by some way. Are the monsters fully-fleshed enough - especially in contrast to Max? Is his blatantly food-less voyaging realistic enough, and the levels of peril at the end sustained and engaging enough? I think there was a stretch to go in making the place where the wild things were, well, more wild.

But I repeat this book is not solely here for that purpose. This came to me in a hardback of very adult styling, and for a change there was not a children's edition or movie tie-in volume to be found (I dare say the original might differ there, however). The fact this is definitely its own piece and not just a quick adaptation is more than obvious, and one more reason for me to recommend this. I don't think it is brilliant for any audience, but for those who know the original and are moving on to full-length novels, or for the adults who might just welcome a psychologically astute 'kids' read' (or flashback to their own youth), this will be enjoyed.

I must thank the kind Hamish Hamilton people for my review copy. We also have a review if Eggers' The Circle.

We hope that everyone has read the the original picture book. If not, do so - whatever your age.

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Buy The Wild Things by Dave Eggers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wild Things by Dave Eggers at


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