Let the Writers’ Rumpus Start!

wildthingsDoes the wild rumpus start or begin?  Scroll to the bottom of this post and join the conversation.

Yesterday would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday. Hope you caught the elaborate Google Doodle in his honor. So this is a particularly auspicious week to launch our new group blog, “Writers’ Rumpus,” whose name honors the famous line in Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are: “Let the wild rumpus start!”* I’d like to pretend that we planned it this way, but it was mere serendipity.

Why start another blog about writing and illustrating for children? We’re all members of a Massachusetts-based SCBWI critique group. Andover’s Memorial Hall Library is kind enough to host our monthly meetings, asking only that we remain open to new members. Some new members arrive knowing quite a bit about children’s writing, illustrating, and publishing while others arrive knowing only that their creative fire has been lit and they can’t stop writing or drawing. So one goal of our blog is to share information to help newcomers navigate this new-to-them world—whether the newcomers attend our meetings or read our blog from afar.

One result of being perpetually open is that, by critique group standards, we are HUGE! We are a humongous rumpus of a critique group, averaging between 15 and 20 members at any given time. With this many people, we don’t have enough time during meetings to share news about conferences, contests, rejections, requests for full manuscript, and yes, contracts and book launches, before we have to start critiquing. Our between-meeting group email trails were getting out of hand and we thought, “there has to be a better way!” And there is. So another goal of our blog is to have a place to share news of note, both among our members and with the wider community of everyone who’s interested in children’s publishing.

Welcome to our Writers’ Rumpus! Hope you stick around.

* By the way, it turns out there is a bit of disagreement about whether, in Sendak’s book, King Max commands the wild rumpus to start or begin. One possible explanation for the confusion is that the rumpus starts in early editions of the book. But books published starting in the late 1980s have the rumpus begin. When did the rumpus start to begin instead of start? Or stopped starting and began beginning?

Do you have a copy of Where the Wild Things Are? What year was it printed, and which does it say: “let the wild rumpus start!” or “let the wild rumpus begin!”?


  1. I’m delighted to find this post. When we got this book for my niece, I was stunned to read “Let the wild rumpus start,” because I vividly remembered it as “begin” from my childhood in the eighties. It made me think my mind was starting to go! So it’s quite a relief to learn that it was something as mundane as a difference in editions, although it’s quite strange that the difference was there at all.

    I’ll agree, though, that “begin” sounds much more natural.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Late to finding this post, but grateful that I have! I am a bit of a stickler with writing and am making birthday invitations for my friend’s son- I distinctly remember “begin” in the phrase and only questioned it when I was looking into invitation examples that had “start” written! Although it may just be an opinion, I feel that “start” sounds incorrect. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way! I’ll have to find my physical copy and see what it says!


  3. Just had a disagreement with my 5 year old daughter about this. My son is turning 1 and he’s having a Where the Wild Things Are themed party. The invitation says, “Let the wild rumpus start!” My daughter insisted I change it to “begin.” I told her I liked the way that sounded better but the book (our copy is from 1991) says, “start.” Apparently her school’s copy says “begin.”


  4. Here’s a reason “begin” is better than “start”. Think of what he said at the end of the rumpus. “Let the wild rumpus finish!” or “Let the wild rumpus end!” I like the first. But commence is best of all (Jenny in London)… Let the wild rumpus conclude!


  5. You know . . . I have always wanted the line to be ‘And now . . let the wild rumpus commence’! Max is, after all, a king. Having recently spent some time with my 3 year old great nephew I was amazed at the vocabulary he had absorbed from who knows where (mostly Peppa Pig animations) and reproduce for play purposes
    But I am not sure Maurice would approve.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I must agree w/ cekster, above. “Begin” sounds so much better. And, it has seven syllables, so one might think of it as the final line of a haiku. As a child (and I was born in 1959, and I’m sure my mother, book addict that she was, bought an early edition of “Wild”) I always remembered the line as using “begin”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul, Your childhood version must have been the “begin” edition, then. I saw a copy at a used-book store last month, and of course I had to check. It said “start”, but didn’t think to check which printing it was. Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Hi, I’m late to the discussion, but wanted to comment. While “begin” is best, I think Sendak used “start” as it’s more likely the word a child Max’s age would use.


    1. Hi Jan, the discussion is ongoing, thanks for joining in. I also prefer start over begin. The interesting thing is that both appear in print, in different printings of the book! If you ever find out why, stop by again and let us know.


  8. This is such a great idea. I can’t wait to start reading more posts and to start posting myself. On a different note I wonder if Sendak had a critique group?


  9. I checked the book in my library at school. It is the First Harper Trophy edition, 1984, 25th Anniversary Edition. “And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”


    1. I think “Let the wild rumpus begin.” sounds so much better than with “start”. I’m surprised an editor or even Sendak himself, didn’t change that in a revision.


  10. Hi Marianne. Great post. BTW, Sendak’s original dummy for the book was titled “Where the Wild Horses Are” and looked completely different:

    He had an excellent editor who really helped him bloom as an author/artist. An amazing metamorphosis.


  11. Thanks, Marianne, it was great to see you at the launch. Thanks, also, for following my blog! Last night when I was at work (public library) I looked up our copies of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Both copies ( ©1991) had ‘let the wild rumpus start’—very interesting!


  12. My favorite story about this book was one I read in Sendak’s obituary. Apparently, the entire publishing house wanted the story to end with the soup being “still WARM” because they feared hot was too intense for young children. Of course we know who won that battle. And I had to run and check my own copy- ours says “begin”!


  13. Years ago I saw a blog for a writers’ group out in California. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Using a blog for your group’s networking information could be a boon for many writers and illustrators. I will add this to my Feedly reader.


  14. This just proves how essential it is to think about every single word we write in our picture books! I’m glad the writer’s rumpus has begun!


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