Thursday, December 29, 2011

6. Bumble-Ardy

Written & illustrated by Maurice Sendak
$17.95, ages 1 and up, 40 pages

Here's a book that feels like a reissued classic, when all the while, we muse with delight, that it's wonderfully, completely new.

Returning to picture books at age 83, Sendak writes with the same rhythm and panache we've long adored.

This time he offers a whimsical rhyme about a pig who never had a birthday party until he turned nine.

All of Bumble's life, his family neglected to celebrate the day. Then when he turned eight, his mom and dad "gorged and gained weight / and got ate."

Oh my, so drolly grim. But then, just like that, Bumble's world flips back around, and he's taken in by an aunt divine, Adeline.

With Adeline, Bumble turns nine. And dear she is. Adeline agrees to celebrate his day for the very first time.

But when nothing happens the morning of his birthday, Bumble fears that she's forgotten.

So after his aunt heads off to work, Bumble throws a bash for himself and in Sendak fashion, lets the rumpus begin.

A "mob of swilling swine" descend on Adeline's house, as the next pages crowd with pigs masquerading as bawdy-looking humans, and in one case, a chicken.

It seems that there's no room for Sendak to rhyme and the story becomes completely visual for three two-page spreads in a row (give or take a few birthday signs held up by his guests.)

The rowdy crowd squishes into every white area until a climactic turn of the page leads to a series of hurried scenes that reflect Adeline's distressful homecoming.

Adeline rushes home "at half past nine," thinking that she'll have a birthday dinner with Bumble, only to find her house taken over by rowdy guests.

With a "shriek and shake and whine," she runs the party-goers off with her spatula and scolds her Bumble for acting out of line.

But then, just like that, her temper cools from hot to just right.

Look at that! Well, ain't that fine. Adeline then "took in her Bumble valentine / And kissed him nine times over nine." 

Though the years have passed, Sendak is still just as was: delightfully idiosyncratic.

He offers a tragic twist, a cautionary tale (be careful what you wish for) and a heart-melting moment when Adeline takes Bumble in her arms.

First introduced in an animated segment for Sesame Street, this gem is the first book Sendak has both written and illustrated in 30 years (since Outside Over There in 1981).

Please, Maurice, tell us it isn't your last!

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