Beyond Wild Things: 5 Maurice Sendak Stories You Should Read
While Where the Wild Things Are is Maurice Sendak’s best known book, it’s not his only notable one. Here are five other Sendak masterpieces you should read. Let the wild rumpus start!
1. In the Night Kitchen
This 1971 children’s book might be Sendak’s most controversial story: In it, a little boy named Mickey, who is disturbed by noises on a lower floor, has a dream in which all of his clothes disappear, and he takes a fully naked romp through a place called the night kitchen. He’s almost baked in a pie by three bakers, makes an airplane out of dough, and slides down a giant bottle of milk—all in the nude. Libraries refused to carry the book, or drew diapers over Mickey.
“It’s one of my favorite works, and it’s a rather complex work,” Sendak told NPR’s Terry Gross in 1993. “And to have it all reduced, so to speak, to a child’s penis, is embarrassing. It’s silly. And the fact that anyone could carry on about such an issue does not speak well for our culture.”
The book was no. 25 on the American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000, and, in 1981, was turned into a trippy, wonderful short film. Above, you also listen to James Gandolfini read the story at Sendak's 80th birthday in 2008.
2. Chicken Soup with Rice
Teachers use this story—in which kids sip chicken soup with rice every month of the year, as described in rhyming verse—to teach younger students about poetry (and, probably, about how delicious chicken soup with rice is).
In 1975, Sendak collaborated with Carole King to create a half-hour musical TV program, Really Rosie, which incorporated several of Sendak’s stories from 1962’s The Nutshell Library—including Chicken Soup with Rice.
3. Outside Over There
This 1981 book—in which a young girl must rescue her baby sister, who was kidnapped by goblins—was inspired by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. In fact, one of the illustrations of the lost baby is actually a portrait of Charles Lindberg Jr. In the 2009 documentary Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak, the author—who was a very young child when the kidnapping occurred—spoke about how the event influenced him and the book.
4. Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue
“There once was a boy named Pierre, who only would say ‘I don’t care!’” Sullen Pierre doesn’t even care when a hungry lion comes over and threatens eats him—and then actually does. Thankfully, spending some quality time in the lion’s tummy teaches Pierre to care. The story first appeared in 1962’s The Nutshell Library.
5. Kenny’s Window
Kenny’s Window was Sendak’s first book, published in 1956. In it, a young boy wakes up from a dream about a garden, where he would like to live forever. In the search for the garden, he learns about himself. The Christian Science Monitor dubbed it “a classic … A beautiful, meaningful book for any young child who can read or be read to with comprehension. And for any adult who might be reading to a child or to himself.”
A version of this story ran in 2013; it has been updated for 2021.