Of all of the beloved children's classics, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are may top the charts for children and adults alike. It's been made into an animated short, an opera, and a wildly popular live-action adaptation. Sendak won the Caldecott Medal in 1964 for the book, and the book was recognized one of the most distinguished picture books for children. The book has sold over 19 million copies worldwide, and continues to grace the shelves of children's book shelves to this day. But there's one thing you never noticed about Where the Wild Things Are.
The evolution of the illustrations on the page from reality to dream state is nearly impossible to catch, but if you pay close attention, as Max descends into his dream state — the illustrations get larger and larger, pushing the formerly stark black and white text right off of the page. When the chaos is at its highest point, both pages are completely covered in illustrations with no room for words at all. The expansion from contained reality into the explosive whimsy of Max's dream state happens so subtly that you barely notice it at all.
Blogger James Sweet took notice of this, and converted the idea of expanding imagery into mathematics, correlating the amount of illustration with the length of Max's dream. Sweet thinks that there's no coincidence that the dream sequence of the book is book-ended by the plain black text on pure white background of reality.
There are plenty of ways to interpret the classic, but in a 1981 interview with the New York Times, Sendak said, "They are all variations on the same theme: how children master various feelings — danger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy — and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives.'' Sendak's portrayal of the children on his pages as grappling with reality by means of imagination is illuminated even further but the idea that the illustrations practically jump off the page while Max is at the height of his imaginative dream state.