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Little Voices, Big Ideas: Where The Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak
Harper & Row

Credit Sarah Debacher / Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
Sarah Debacher, center, with her two sons, Charlie and Robin.

Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, takes readers on an extraordinary journey into the imagination of the wildest thing of all--the young and precocious Max.

Banished to his bedroom for bad behavior, Max sails across weeks and over a year to the land of the wild things, a bunch of misbehaving creatures who want nothing more than to rumpus till they can rumps no more. But when the bandying about is over, Max discovers he misses his home, and the very person who banished him in the first place: his mother.

In this episode, we explore what makes this tale so endearing--and enduring--and why Where the Wild Things Are allows parents and children to have tame talks about the pain of punishment, and the healing power of the imagination.

Host Sarah Debacher sits down with her son, Robin, to discuss this modern classic.

This podcast is made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is a partnership project of PRIME TIME Family Reading, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, WWNO New Orleans, and WRKF Baton Rouge.

Sarah DeBacher is the Director of Curriculum and Content Development for PRIME TIME Family Reading at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Originally from Atlanta, she has lived in New Orleans for 23 years, where she has taught English and writing at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, and the Bard Early College program. Her publications include “Making it Up as We Go: Students Writing and Teachers Reflecting on Post-K New Orleans” (Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Service Learning and Community Literacy, 2008), “First, Do No Harm: Teaching Writing in the Wake of Traumatic Events” (Composition Forum, 2016), and several essays on living in New Orleans. She is mother to two young sons, three chickens, two cats, and a rescue dog.
Freddi Williams Evans is the author of three historical and award-winning picture books: Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret (Carolrhoda, 2008), The Battle of New Orleans, the Drummer’s Story (Pelican Publishers, 2005), and, A Bus of Our Own (Albert Whitman, 2001). She is also internationally recognized for her scholarship on Congo Square, a historical landmark of African American culture in New Orleans. Along with over a dozen published essays and countless presentations, her books on the subject are Come Sunday, A Young Reader’s History of Congo Square (ULL Press, 2017), and Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans (ULL Press, 2011), which received the 2012 Louisiana Humanities Book of the Year award and has been published in French.
Thomas E. Wartenberg is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Mount Holyoke College. He has published two books related to the idea of philosophy for children: Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy Through Children’s Literature (Rowman and Littlefield, 2nd Edition 2014), and A Sneetch is A Sneetch and Other Philosophical Discoveries: Finding Wisdom in Children’s Literature (Wiley Blackwell, 2013). The program that he founded, Teaching Children Philosophy, was awarded the 2011 APA/PDC Prize for Excellence and Innovations in Philosophy Programs. He has created two other websites for discussing philosophy with young people: whatsthebigideaprogram.com and museumphilosophy.com. He received the 2013 Merritt Prize for his contributions to the philosophy of education. His course, Philosophy for Children, is the subject of a PBS documentary (accessible at http://wgby.org/bigideas) which won a New England Emmy in 2015.
Helen Clare Taylor was born in London, England and came to the USA for the PhD which she earned from the University of Connecticut. She moved to Louisiana to become a professor of English at Louisiana State University Shreveport where she now serves as Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. She became involved in the LEH’s PRIME TIME Family Reading in 2002 and later served as a consultant and trainer for that program.

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