Maurice Sendak scares parents with new book

Maurice Sendak has released his new book, 'Bumble-Ardy'. As with 'Where the Wild Things Are', some parents are not sure it's a children's book.

Mary Altaffer/AP
Maurice Sendak is photographed doing an interview at his home in Ridgefield, Conn. on Sept. 6. The children's book author and illustrator released his latest book, 'Bumble-Ardy.'

Maurice Sendak has been called "one of the most important, if not the most important, writers and artists to ever work in children's literature."

The famous author and illustrator, best known for his celebrated books "Where the Wild Things Are" and "In The Night Kitchen", has released a new children's book about a pig's chaotic birthday party. It is the first book he has both written and illustrated for 30 years. "Bumble-Ardy" follows a 9-year-old orphan pig named Bumble who throws the ultimate birthday-cum-costume party at his aunt's house while she is away. Bumble has been deprived of birthday parties his entire life so this party is to make up for all the birthdays he never had.

The Brooklyn-born author spoke with the New York Times from his Connecticut home saying that he has been working on the "Bumble-Ardy" book for two-to-three years, but the first incarnation of the story was actually for a Sesame Street episode in 1970. That episode featured an animated short that played on the rhyme between nine and swine and depicted a boy celebrating a raucous ninth birthday.

Sendak's work has a history of resonating with children more than with some of their parents. "Where the Wild Things Are," and many books that followed, had some parents saying they were too scary for young children.

At one point in "Bumble-Ardy", Sendak introduces the Grim Reaper, not an image that every parent wants her children dwelling on as they go to sleep. One reviewer on wrote that "Bumble-Ardy" was a "disturbing book in so many ways."

Sendak sees it the other way around. It is parents who are scaredy cats, he argues, frightened to deal with the nightmarish fantasies and even murderous impulses with which children are familiar and which books such as "Alice in Wonderland” explore.

Sendak told the New York Times that in the past, children’s books tried to "keep [kids] calm, keep them happy, keep them snug and safe. It’s not a putdown of those earlier books. But basically, they went by the rules that children should be safe and that we adults should be their guardians. I got out of that, and I was considered outlandish. So be it."

Nevertheless, Sendak made at least one change to "Bumble-Ardy" to appease parents. The original story had the party-going pigs drinking wine, while the final version has the swine drinking brine.

Sendak isn't taking a break. He's working on his next book and keeping things a bit silly. In a National Public Radio interview, Sendak said "I'm writing a poem right now about a nose. I've always wanted to write a poem about a nose. But it's a ludicrous subject. That's why, when I was younger, I was afraid of [writing] something that didn't make a lot of sense. But now I'm not. I have nothing to worry about."

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