There were a couple of reasons why I desperately wanted to read this one:
- I LOVE the picture book
- I can't wait for the Spike Jonze film (and have been tearing up just watching the trailer!)
- it has a furry cover(!!)
- I am a bit obsessed with Dave Eggers
So given all that build up, how was the book?
The premise is the same as the picture book, Max leaves home to sail away to an island of beasts. There is a wild rumpus, they love him so much they want to eat him up, they make him king, there is a parade and then he sails home to find dinner waiting.
But of course Jonze and Eggers had to fill the bones of the story out, and in doing so they have made Max a much more destructive character. His parents have divorced and he is acting out of anger and loneliness. He trashes his sister's room in a manner that could have major consequences, (and gets away with this) he is hostile to his mother's boyfriend and he lashes out culminating in biting his mum.
We all really get along - Spike and Maurice and I always had the same goals for the movie, and the novelization, too, which was to sort of reinstitute the dangerous elements of that book. Because when it came out, it was pretty controversial and some librarians didn’t like it, and child psychologists thought it was, you know, unhelpful. And it was really morally ambiguous in a way. It showed a kid sort of disobeying his mother and acting crazy - which all kids do, but you still don’t see much of in children’s literature. It’s too often, I think, washed clean.
Spike and Maurice and I just decided we needed to make the book wild and dangerous again and really unexpected. So the movie is really unlike anything anyone will expect, I think. And the book is different from both of them, actually. It has Max and Max going to an island, but in the book I’m able to [develop] the storyline also - as a book can always do. You have a lot more room to play with. The book is 150 words, the movie is 90 minutes, the novel gets to be a whole different level.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely and wholeheartedly. It is meant for "all ages" and there are definitely moments in there for all readers.