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The Wild Things

The Wild Things

3.9 68
by Dave Eggers

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Max is a rambunctious eight-year-old whose world is changing around him: His father is absent, his mother is increasingly distracted, and his teenage sister has outgrown  him. Sad and angry, Max dons his wolf suit and makes terrible, ruinous mischief, flooding his sister’s room and driving his mother half-crazy. Convinced his family doesn’t want him


Max is a rambunctious eight-year-old whose world is changing around him: His father is absent, his mother is increasingly distracted, and his teenage sister has outgrown  him. Sad and angry, Max dons his wolf suit and makes terrible, ruinous mischief, flooding his sister’s room and driving his mother half-crazy. Convinced his family doesn’t want him anymore, Max flees home, finds a boat and sails away. Arriving on an island, he meets strange and giant creatures who rage and break things,  who trample and scream. These beasts do everything Max feels inside, and so, Max appoints himself their king. Here, on a magnificent adventure with these funny and complex monsters, Max can be the wildest thing of all.
In this visionary adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic work, Dave Eggers brings an imaginary world vividly to life, telling the story of a lonely boy navigating the emotional journey away from boyhood.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Each adaptation—from picture book to movie, screenplay, novel, and audio—has diluted the mystery and magic of Sendak’s classic. Dion Graham’s reading of Eggers’s interpretation has little to recommend it. The enigmatic plot is made commonplace; the listener follows the young and troubled Max through a series of banal family problems—arguments with his mother, her boyfriend, and his sister until he runs away and sails to the land of the Wild Things. Graham’s narration is uninspired; he style would be better suited to a spy thriller, and the voices he creates—particularly those of the Wild Things—are more histrionic than otherworldly. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Eggers's adult novelization of Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, also inspired by the 2009 Spike Jonze-directed film adaptation of the same name (whose screenplay Eggers coauthored) is depressing and lacks the charm of the children's book. But in this audio edition, actor/narrator Dion Graham (see Behind the Mike, LJ 11/1/09) does a commendable job of portraying confused and lonely Max, his angst-filled teenaged sister, and their stressed-out mother. For adults wanting a metaphor for growing up; not meant as a children's literature selection. [See "Great Discoveries," LJ 7/09; see also Joanna M. Burkhardt's review of Eggers's Zeitoun, p. 63.—Ed.]—J. Sara Paulk, Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Cty. Lib., Fitzgerald, GA
From the Publisher
“Eggers, in this funny and touching novelization of Maurice Sendak’s picture book, is brilliant at portraying the exuberance and chaos of a young boy’s mind and heart.” —San Francisco Chronicle  

“[A] terrific new novel. . . . A fresh way to tell us a story we already know so well, about the monstrous forces of love and hate that mark every childhood—and pursue us howling into adulthood.” —Boston Globe

“Dave Eggers has created a novel like childhood itself: sometimes weird, sometimes dark, and full of wonder.” —The Independent (London) 
“Eggers strikes the perfect tone. . . . As Max navigates the politics of the island, the story gets progressively creepier, the Wild Things more impulsive, and the most dangerous thing Max can do is hurt someone’s feelings. It’s still Eggers, so that means the humor will always be there in the dark.” —Time Out Chicago 
“Deeply imaginative, slightly strange, occasionally dark, and ultimately touching. . . . The writing is crisp and alive, and it works, perhaps better than an adaptation ever should.” —Flavorwire
“Like the original, this is far from the cozy world kids are often fed, but it has real heart—Eggers uses simple but superbly effective prose to suggest that childhood has to be lived without cosseting for us to grow up with any semblance of a normal personality.” —The Independent (London)
“A wonderful read. . . . Eggers makes us privy to Max’s thoughts, fears and desires. He lets us feel the boy’s confusion as anger results in shocking behavior (Max bites his mother’s arm); we feel the rush of being the aggressor in battle and subsequent shame of having inflicted pain; the release of a full-throated howl; the fear of abandonment; the sadness of leaving; the joy of knowing you belong. And we get to know the Wild Things as individuals.” —Montreal Gazette
“Eggers does a fine job portraying the chaotic existence of a very young boy, as well as the innumerable stresses the rest of the world places on him without even thinking.” —The Guardian (London)
“There is probably no cooler figure in American letters than Eggers: his prose is luminous, playful, original.” —The Times (London)

“Everything is in the spirit of Sendak’s book. There are knowing nods—Max carves his name on the boat during the boring trip to the island—and the monsters retain their utter, incomprehensible difference. There is far more emotion: the monsters are petulant, panicky, selfish, vulnerable and violent. . . . The parting is affecting. It won’t just be Max and the monsters that end in a mess of tears.” —The Scotsman

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Random House
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2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Matching Stumpy pant for pant, Max chased his cloudwhite
dog through the upstairs hallway, down the wooden stairs, and into the cold open foyer. Max and Stumpy did this often, running and wrestling through the house, though Max’s mother and sister, the two other occupants of the home, didn’t appreciate the volume and violence of the game. Max’s dad lived in the city and phoned on
Wednesdays and Sundays but sometimes did not.
Max lunged toward Stumpy, missed, barreled into the front door, and knocked the doorknob-basket off. The doorknob-basket was a small wicker vessel that Max thought was stupid but Max’s mom insisted on having on the front doorknob for good luck. The main thing the
basket was good for was getting knocked off, and landing on the floor, where it was often stepped on. So Max knocked the basket off, and then Stumpy stepped on it, putting his foot through the bottom with an unfortunate wicker-ripping sound. Max was worried for a second, but then his worry was eclipsed by the sight of Stumpy trying
to walk around the house with a basket stuck to his foot. Max laughed and laughed. Any reasonable person would see the humor in it.
“Are you going to be a freak all day?” Claire asked, suddenly standing over Max. “You’ve only been home for ten minutes.”
His sister Claire was fourteen, almost fifteen, and was no longer interested in Max, not on a consistent basis at least. Claire was a freshman now and the things they always liked to do together—including Wolf and Master, a game Max still thought worthy—were no longer so appealing to her. She had adopted a tone of perpetual dissatisfaction and annoyance with everything Max did, and with most things that existed in the world.
Max didn’t answer Claire’s question; any response would be problematic. If he said “No,” then it would imply he had been acting freakish, and if he said “Yes,” it would mean that not only had he been a freak, and he was admitting it, but that he intended to continue being a freak.
“You better make yourself scarce,” Claire said, repeating one of their dad’s favorite expressions. “I’m having people over.”
If Claire had been thinking clearly, she would have known that to tell Max to become scarce would only make him want to be more prominent, and to tell him that she was having people over would only make him more committed to being present. “Is Meika coming?” he asked. Meika was his favorite among Claire’s friends, the rest of whom were imbeciles. Meika paid attention to him, actually talked to him, asked him questions, had one time even come into his room to play Legos and admire the wolf suit he kept on his closet door. She had not forgotten what was fun.
“None of your business,” Claire said. “Just leave us alone, okay? Don’t ask them to play with your blocks or whatever lame crap you want them to do.”
Max knew that watching and annoying Claire and her friends would be better with someone else, so he went outside, got on his bike, and rode down the street to Clay’s. Clay was a new kid; he lived in one of the just-built houses down the street. And though he was pale and his head too big, Max was giving him a chance.
Max rode down the sidewalk serpentine-style, his head full of possibilities for what he and Clay might do with or, barring that, to Claire’s friends. It was December and the snow, dry and powdery just a few days earlier, was now melting, leaving slush on the roads and sidewalks, a patchy cover on the lawns.
Something was happening in Max’s neighborhood.  The old houses were being taken down, and in their place, new, bigger and louder houses were rising. There were fourteen homes on his block, and in the last two years, six of them, all of them smallish, one-story ranches, had been leveled. In each case the same thing had happened: the owners had left or had died of old age, and the new owners had decided that they liked the location of the house, but wanted a far larger one where it stood. It brought to the neighborhood the constant sound of construction, and, thankfully for Max, a near-endless supply of castoff materials—nails, wood, wire, insulation, and tile. With it
all he’d been assembling a sort-of home of his own, in a
tree, in the woods by the lake.
Max pedaled up, dropped his bike, and knocked on the door of Clay Mahoney. He bent down to tie his shoes, and as he finished the second knot on his left shoe, the door flew open.
“Max?” Clay’s mother stood over him, wearing tight black pants and a small white T-shirt—TODAY! YES! It said—over a black lycra top; she was dressed like a competitive downhill skier. Behind her, an exercise video had been paused on the television. On the screen, three muscular women were reaching upward and rightward, desperate and grimacing, for something far beyond the frame.
“Is Clay home?” Max asked, standing up.
“No, I’m sorry Max, he’s not.”
She was holding a large, silver canister with a black handle—some sort of coffee mug—and while taking a sip from it, she looked around the front porch.
“Are you here alone?” she asked.
Max thought a second about this question, looking for a second meaning. Of course he was here alone.
“Yup,” he said.
She had a face, Max had noticed, that always seemed surprised. Her posture and voice aimed at knowingness, but her eyes said Really? What? How is that possible?
“How’d you get here?” she asked.
Another odd question. Max’s bike was lying no more than four feet behind him, in plain sight. Could she not see it?
“I rode,” he said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.
“Alone?” she asked.
“Yup,” he said. This lady, Max thought.
“Alone?” she repeated. Her eyes had gone wide. Poor Clay. His mom was nuts. Max knew he should be careful about what he might say to a crazy person. Didn’t crazy people need to be treated with great care? He decided to be very polite.
“Yes, Mrs. Mahoney. I… am… alone.” He said the words slowly, carefully, maintaining eye contact all the while.
“Your parents let you ride around on your own? In December? Without a helmet?”
This lady definitely had a problem grasping the obvious. It was obvious that Max was alone, and obvious that he had ridden his bike. And there was nothing on his head, so why ask about the helmet? She was delusional on top of it all. Or maybe functionally blind?
“Yes, Mrs. Mahoney. I don’t need a helmet. I live just down the block. I rode here on the sidewalk.”
He pointed down the street to his own house, which was visible from her door. Mrs. Mahoney put her hand on her forehead and squinted, like a castaway searching the horizon for a rescue vessel. She dropped her hand, returned her eyes to Max, and sighed.
“Well, Clay is at his quilting class,” she said. Max didn’t know what a quilting class was, but it sounded a lot less fun than making icicle-spears and throwing them at birds, which had been on Max’s mind.
“Well, okay. Thanks, Mrs. Mahoney. Tell him I came by,” he said. He waved goodbye to Clay’s crazy mom, turned, and got on his bike. He heard the Mahoney’s door shut as he coasted away. But when he turned onto the sidewalk and toward his house, he found Mrs. Mahoney next to him, striding purposefully, still holding her silver drink canister.
“I can’t let you go alone,” she said, striding briskly alongside him.
“Thanks, Mrs. Mahoney, but I ride alone every day,” he said, pedaling cautiously and again maintaining steady eye contact. Her weirdness had tripled and his heartbeat had doubled.
“Not today you don’t,” she said, grabbing for the seat of Max’s bike.
Now he was getting scared. This woman was not only nuts, but she was following him, grabbing at him. He picked up speed. He figured he could ride faster than she could walk, and he intended to do so. He was now standing on his pedals.
She picked up her pace — still walking! Her elbows were flying left and right, her mouth a quick slash of determination. Was she smiling?
“Ha!” she giggled. “Fun!”
It was always the nuttiest people who smiled while doing the nuttiest things. This lady was far gone.
“Please,” he said, now pedaling as fast as he possibly could. He almost hit a mailbox, the Chungs’, the one bearing a large peace sign; this had caused great controversy in  the neighborhood. “Just let me go,” he begged.
“Don’t worry,” she huffed, now at a full jog. “I’ll be right here the whole way.”
How could he shake her? Would she follow him inside his own house? She was no doubt waiting to get him alone and indoors, so she could do something to him. She could knock him cold with the coffee canister. Or maybe she’d grab a pillow, pin him down, and suffocate him? That seemed more her style. She had the clear-eyed, efficient look of a murderous nurse.
Now there was barking. Max turned to see that the Scolas’ dog had joined them, barking at Mrs. Mahoney and nipping her ankles. Mrs. Mahoney took little notice. Her eyes were bigger than ever. The exertion seemed to make her ever-more gleeful.
“Endorphins!” she sang. “Thanks, Max!”
“Please,” he said. “What are you gonna do to me?” It was about ten houses until his own.
“Keep you safe,” she said, “from all this.”
She waved her arm around, indicating the neighborhood that Max was born into and in which he’d been raised. It was a quiet street of tall elms and oaks, ending in a cul-de-sac. Beyond the cul-de-sac was a wooded few acres, then the lake. Nothing nefarious or of note had ever happened on this street, or in their town, or, for that matter, within four hundred miles.
Max swerved suddenly, leaving the sidewalk. Hejumped the curb into the road.
“The road!” Mrs. Mahoney gasped, as if he’d steered his bike into a river of molten lava. The road was empty now and was always empty. But soon she was right behind him, now running, again reaching for his seat.
Max decided it was silly to go home; that’s where she wanted him. He’d be trapped and she’d finish him for sure. His only chance of escape would be the forest.
He sped up again, giving himself enough room to turn around. He did a quick 180 and headed back toward the dead-end, hoping to make it to the woods.
“Where are you going?” she wailed.
Max almost laughed. She wouldn’t follow him into the
woods, would she? He looked back, and though she’d lost
a step or two, it wasn’t long before she was sprinting at
him. Man, she was fast! He was close to the road’s end,
almost at the trees.
“I won’t let you out of my sight!” she falsettoed. “Don’t worry!”
He jumped the curb again — eliciting a terrified howl
from Mrs. Mahoney — and jumbled over the rough grass
and snow. Soon he was quickly ducking under the first low
branches of the tall white-mustached pines, weaving
between the trunks.
“MAAAAAX!” she wailed. “Not the woods!”
He entered the forest and headed toward the ravine.
“Molesters! Drugs! Homeless! Needles!” she gasped.
The ravine was up ahead, about twenty feet deep and twelve feet wide. A month earlier, over the gap he’d put a wide bridge of plywood. If he could get to the gap, cross the bridge, and then pull the plank away in time, he might finally be free.
“Stop!” she yelled.
He swung his bike underneath him, left and right. He’d never ridden so fast. Even the Scola dog was having trouble keeping up; he was still yapping at the lady’s heels.
“Look out!” she screamed. “The what-do-you-call-it! The gorge!”
Duh, he thought. He made it to the bridge and again came a howl of incalculable terror. “Nooooooo!”
He rumbled quickly over the plank. On the other side, he spun out, dropped his bike, and grabbed the plywood. She was almost upon him when he pulled the board free. The bridge fell into the ravine and crashed against the rocks below.
She stopped short. “Dammit!” she yelled. She stood for a second, hands on hips, heaving. “How do you expect me to protect you when you’re all the way over there?”
Max thought of a few clever answers to this question, but instead said nothing. He mounted his bike again, in case Mrs. Mahoney decided to leap over the gap. She was far stronger and faster than he would have guessed, so he couldn’t rule it out.
At that moment, the Scolas’ dog, still running at full speed, chose to pass Mrs. Mahoney, jump over the ravine, and join Max. He flew, effortlessly, and landed on Max’s side. He turned back to face her, then looked up to Max with a toothy grin and happy eyes, as if the two of them had together vanquished a common enemy. Max laughed, and when the dog began barking at the woman doubled over on the edge of the ravine, Max barked, too. They both barked and barked and barked.

Meet the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including Zeitoun, winner of the American Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. What Is the What was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and won France’s Prix Medici. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, which operates a secondary school in South Sudan run by Mr. Deng. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine, The Believer, and an oral history series, Voice of Witness. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Boston and Washington, DC, and similar centers now exist in London (the Ministry of Stories), Dublin (Fighting Words) and in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many other cities. A native of Chicago, Eggers now lives in Northern California with his wife and two children.

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The Wild Things 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
books4fun-n-more More than 1 year ago
First off I am truly impressed with what Dave Eggers (and Spike Jones) were able to do with Sendak's 10 sentences. This book is a great story, very engaging and truly exciting. I am not sure what in the world the person before was complaining about. Eggers merely writes from his personal experience. I am certain that he has no hatred towards boomers or the such. This book is not worth a 1 star rating in the slighest bit. Sorry that you are so bitter about your life brittneyfan300.
GhostHouse More than 1 year ago
This is truly an enjoyable read. As one of the lucky few who has been to a screening of the film I believe this book shows how much love and care Dave and Spike took with a masterpiece of children's literature. The unfortunate side effect of some reviews that get posted here is they are posted by folks who have never even READ the book and see it as an excuse to either flame a writer they don't like or promote one they are obsessed with. Either way it's a shame.
onamichin More than 1 year ago
Eggers is able to get into the heart of what it is to be a nine year old kid. As I read it, I was nine again (30 otherwise). Each time Max gets into trouble I am back in my room remembering what it was like to think something is totally reasonable at the time and be so ridiculed for it. As a parent also, I think this book is a great way to remind me of those times and keep them fresh in my mind for when my buttons get pushed (although my girl is only 2, I know thats coming soon). Great read for kids who want to be understood and adults who need to remember to understand.
kuhlcat More than 1 year ago
Remember "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak? A boy runs from home and hangs out with gigantic beasts. Dave Eggers took this children's book and turned it first into a movie of the same title and then into a novel called "The Wild Things". It goes into more detail about Max-- he has a teenage sister and a single mother who's dating a very lame man and he's trying to cope with the ups and downs of boyhood. It's such a quick read. Almost 300 pages, but in going along with Max on his adventure, the reader is carried along by his exuberance and over-excitement. The beasts truly are wild and definitely not the brightest bulbs in the box. But each one of them has their own personality, which brings a sort of reality to them, as if they could exist. Maybe they do... It's been so long since I've read the picture book by Mr. Sendak that I don't remember the reason why Max ran away in that book, or if he even did (was it a dream?), but it was creative of Mr. Eggers to place him in a stressful, confusing family situation, with a sister with whom he used to be close but is now embarrassed by him and a mother who doesn't have time to pay attention to him because of her job and her new boyfriend. These dynamics give the story a definite foundation and the events logically build to Max sailing away in a small boat. This new spin on a classic children's book is vivid, lively, and full of adventure. You don't even need to read Mr. Sendak's version in order to get enthralled with this one. It's a very enjoyable read for all ages.
DeDeFlowers More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. I am not familiar with the children's book, so my review is in no way comparing the two. I thought this book was so much fun and very absorbing. It is very simple and the writing style is easy to follow and enjoy. The characters are all very fun and the lessons are important. This is a fantastic book for both adults and children.
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Aerin-Allyse Winfery More than 1 year ago
Great read full of emotion.
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bambi-kid More than 1 year ago
Before I go on with all the amazing things this wonderful story based off of the MOVIE *which bases off the actual picture book... in some... way* I would like to declare this: Picture high school on a woodsy island and all it's dramatic issues collided. That's basically what the movie and THIS wild things book revolves on. It's slightly pointless and it kinda doesn't make sense at some parts. When it's really suppose to be a fun enlighting kids story (with the movie; better off made by Pixar or Dreamworks rather than actual actors.) This book is exactly like the movie - but there's some things added and changed to the whole story. For me, just like the movie, I thought the beginnings and the endings were awesome but for the actual middle of both, I could've seen better. Bright Side: This book closely relates to thee actual picture book rather than the movie relating to the actual picture book. Its sorta pulled like dough; sometimes it's like the picture book, sometimes Dave Eggers adds his own things. :) all-in-all if you really love the movie in general and you want to tote around your entertainment when you don't have access to the movie: this book is perfect for that.
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ArtfullyYours More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It stayed interesting the whole time and sometimes I did not even want to put it down. This is a must read for anyone. It really takes you back to what childhood and imagination is really like.
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