Taming the Wild Things for Children

Despite parental fears of traumatic results in their children, picture books depicting monsters and other scary creatures seem enjoyable to young children. Such storybooks seem frightening since they contain alarming images, disquieting texts, and threatening concepts. Take as an example the book entitled Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In this book, a little boy is challenged by sharp-toothed monsters with equally sharp claws combined with ear-splitting roars threaten to gobble him up. This book no doubt portrays the alarming.What are the effects of such a book on young children? Occasionally, these children may be frightened beyond tolerance. They may not only be enjoyable, they may even cause distress. The author himself, Sendak, tells of a child who screamed in fright each time Where the Wild Things Are was read to him.The fear factor is not relegated to the children alone. Sometimes it is the adult who is afraid. Such a book as Sendak’s may instill fear in adults too, persuading them to withhold the book from a child who would absorb its contents wide-eyed and unshaken. “Some critics have noted that the unfamiliar ferocity of such monsters initially took some grown-ups aback. The monsters of Wild Things are scary monsters and that scariness probably frightened a few adults unaccustomed to such literary apparitions and unsure of their benignity.” (Stevenson, 1996, p. 3)Very often, adults are afraid on behalf of their children – adults may find the images, text, or concept not frightening but they feel the need to protect children from their lack of fear. In their naivete, the children may not understand the danger of the images contained in the book. Their very innocence makes them trusting, ignorant, and vulnerable to corruption. They may be convinced through the attractive medium of the picture book that evil is acceptable or even pleasurable.