The Greatest Monsters in Children’s Literature

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are first roared its terrible roars on this day in 1963. Today marks the beloved book’s 50th anniversary. Sendak’s tale about a young boy whose imagination transports him to a land full of “wild things” was an early, rare portrait of the dark emotions children learn to cope with. “If I’ve done anything, I’ve had kids express themselves as they are, impolitely, lovingly… they don’t mean any harm. They just don’t know what the right way is,” Sendak said of the book in a 2004 interview. The many monsters in children’s literature have helped young readers face their fears, empowering them — and in some cases, frightening them to tears. We love them all, so we’ve selected 13 of the greatest monsters featured in children’s books. Tell us your favorites, below.


The Jabberwock

“The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,” mentioned in a nonsense poem in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, was first brought to life by John Tenniel’s famous illustration. The creature, whose “jaws that bite” and “claws that catch,” resembled a chimera, and had the body of a dragon and a catfish-like head. Carroll’s description of the man-eating beast painted a colorful, but grotesque picture of the creature’s movements and sounds. We don’t want to run into anything in the woods that “whiffles” and “burbles.”