With Bumble-Ardy, the author of Where the Wild Things Are has yet another unsettling children's book. Should adults be worried?
This month marks the end of a long, strange silence: For the first time in 30 years, Maurice Sendak has published a book that he both wrote and drew. Not that the 83-year-old author hasn't kept busy. In recent decades, Sendak's used his talents to interpret and augment other people's stories, working so prolifically that a brief summary is difficult. He's illustrated dozens of texts by authors including Herman Melville, Mother Goose, and Tony Kushner; he's pursued an entire second career as a set- and costume-designer for opera and ballet productions; he's contributed lavish, full-color broadsides for museum exhibitions and the theatre; finally, and most famously, he helped director Spike Jonze adapt his best-known work, Where the Wild Things Are, for the silver screen.
Meanwhile, a whole generation of Wild Things have grown up--grown old, even--in the interval between Sendak's last illustrated tale, Outside Over There, and his new book. Happily, Bumble-Ardy is worth the wait.
The tale begins with a short Prologue that unfurls a sorrowful backstory. Bumble-Ardy, a young pig, is an orphan. Even worse, our hero has never in his life enjoyed a birthday party. Bumble's Ma and Pa forgot his birthday (on purpose!) eight years in a row; "his immediate family," Sendak tells us, "frowned on fun." But when his parents are sent off to the slaughterhouse, Bumble's sweet Aunt Adeline adopts him, and gives him his first modest party—a cake with nine candles, a swell cowboy costume. She whistles on her way to work, happy to have done the right thing.