Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 233–241 | Cite as

Psyche and Society in Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen

  • Rebecca V. L. Adams
  • Eric S. RabkinEmail author
Original Paper


While Where the Wild Things Are may be Maurice Sendak’s most popular book, In the Night Kitchen is arguably the greater work. Though his journey in Wild Things shares many of the elements of Mickey’s adventure in Night Kitchen—swinging between the protagonist’s initiatory verbal assertions and silent, completely pictorial spreads that indicate his eventual dominance over his environment—Max’s story is ultimately only a narrative of the self. Where the Wild Things Are is a beautiful exploration of how Max (the maximum boy) is able to use an imaginative journey to create an individual personality that fills the world around him. But Mickey must confront something more than merely a projection of his own desires. Mickey, unlike Max, is diminutive in his fantasy world, and his adventure is a true dream shaped willy-nilly by his lived experience, not a daydream tailored to defend the ego. The story told as Mickey learns to navigate the Night Kitchen is essentially a social narrative—more realistic, more challenging, and with greater overall dividends than Max’s adventure. We can see this in the ways In the Night Kitchen combines four sorts of ingredients—Sendak’s own life, the psychology of dreaming, popular culture, and the immigrant experience—into a subtle, captivating tale of the self and society.


Immigrant experience Psychosocial development Graphic narrative Sendak New York City 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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