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Word by Word

Sometimes Less is More

I don't plan to see the new movie, Where the Wild Things Are. I don't want to know Max's Freudian motivations for wearing a wolf suit or yelling at his mom. I don't want to hear the Wild Things talk. I don't want to see the island "brought to life on the big screen".

I adore the book; in my mind Maurice Sendak created the perfect picture book--short, spare, concise, and elegant in its design. (Have you noticed how the pictures take up more of the page's space as Max's journey evolves?)A good picture book--a great picture book--can say as much in a few words as a novel. Like a poem, much of the meaning is constructed by the reader. Movies tell too much. They leave nothing for the viewer to do. I want to participate in the creation of the story, bringing my own memories, fears, hopes, and dreams to my reading. In this way, each reader experiences the book in a unique fashion.

I haven't liked other movies that have been adapted from picture books because that inevitably means that plot is added, unlike a novel adaptation where plot is cut. Jumanji, for instance--where did that sad, lost hunter come from? Or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a horrible movie which seeks to explain why the Grinch turned bad. I never had a problem accepting that he was bad because his heart was two sizes too small, did you? The only movie based on a book that I did like was Shrek, and I suspect that was because I had not read the book first.

Instead of movies, I prefer the richer, less limiting experience of my own "theater of the mind" where Wild Things do not need to talk, and the Polar Express is full of unexplained magic.

So, while other folks are in the dark theater, finding out what Wild Things do at a rumpus, I'll be at home, with a cup of tea, my cat at my feet, and a stack of picture books at hand. Relaxing, reflecting, watching stories come to life in my head.

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