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Where the Wild Things Are exhibit at the Rosenbach Gallery and gallery talk about Maurice Sendak.

The inspiration behind Maurice Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, was not his fascination with a child’s imagination — it was his overbearing aunts and uncles.

Last night, the Rosenbach Museum hosted a gallery talk and tour about Sendak’s renown picture book, lead by Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator Patrick Rodgers.

In a videotaped interview played during the tour, Sendak explained how his relatives inspired the monsters in his famous story.

“I resented them,” Sendak recalled, “These people could eat you — they handled you so roughly, by the scruff of your neck, by your cheeks. Horrible, horrible.”

Hence, the monsters.

Sendak explained that he didn’t want his monsters to be like real people or to talk like real people.

“But my relatives weren’t like real people,” he remarked. “They smoked cigars, had horrible teeth [and] hair coming out of their noses.”

But originally, the book was not meant to be centered around monsters at all. The 44-draft effort began as a story about wild horses, not “wild things.”

A 1955 draft, exhibited in the Sendak Stew Gallery, depicts a young boy attempting to tame a wild horse by grabbing its tail. When the horse bucks the boy, his clothes fly off as he’s hurled to the ground. In the penultimate sketch, a hairy monster makes an unexpected and random appearance to chase after the boy.

Rodgers also highlighted Sendak’s prolific use of food in his work. Rodgers lead the audience on a tour around the Gallery, which featured original sketches of gigantic cakes, cauldrons of piping-hot soup and knotty loafs of bread. Sendak’s work repeatedly emphasizes food’s ability to bring families together.

But the Rosenbach has not merely jumped on the Wild Things bandwagon in anticipation of next week’s Spike Jonze film release. The Museum began exhibiting Sendak’s work in 2003 after the famed author pitched the idea, according to Rodgers.

“I wonder if people are going to think that there was no life of The Wild Things between the book’s publication in 1963 and this movie release,” Rodgers speculated in an interview.

But the exhibit’s ‘76 Rolling Stone cover, late 70’s “Wild Things” Opera and numerous promotional materials over the years have proved the contrary.

“You know a children’s author has succeeded when both kids and parents are enthralled by the story and the pictures,” noted Penn professor Roslyn Blynn-LaDrew, who was also in attendence.

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