Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bumble-Ardy: Maurice Sendak's valedictory kids' book

Bumble-Ardy, who began life as a cartoon boy Maurice Sendak created for Sesame Street in the 1970s, is the title character of his final children's book. When Sendak died in 2012, the sorrow and the accolades pervaded the media. In The Guardian, playwright Tony Kushner called him  "one of the most important, if not the most important, writers and artists to ever work in children's literature. In fact, he's a significant writer and artist in literature. Period."
"The book will challenge parents for the same reason it will thrill children: Briefly, it permits the dream of misbehavior without reproach or consequences."—The Atlantic.
NPR dubbed Bumble-Ardy "dark and deeply imaginative, much like his classic works Where the Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen. In the illustrations below, you can tell that the invitees at Bumbel-Ardy's ninth birthday bash and costume ball are having a bit of a "wild rumpus"themselves!
"For Sendak, visiting the land of the very young is not something that requires a visa. He is a permanent citizen."—Time
Where the Wild Things Are won the Caldecott Medal as the "most distinguished picture book of the year" in 1964, and was later adapted into an opera and a film. "The Wild Things were actually modelled, he said, on his Jewish uncles and aunts who racketed around his childhood, unpredictably and on the whole in a well-intentioned if slightly threatening vein."—The Guardian
In 1964, when the American Library Association awarded Wild Things the Caldecott Medal for most distinguished illustrated book, Sendak made the following comments in his acceptance speech: "[It's] an awful fact of childhood.The fact of [a child's] vulnerability to fear, anger, hate, frustration—all the emotions that are an ordinary part of their lives and that they can only perceive as dangerous, ungovernable forces. To master these forces, children turn to fantasy: that imaginary world where disturbing emotional situations are solved to their satisfaction…. Through fantasy, Max, the hero of my book, discharges his anger against his mother and returns to the real world sleepy, hungry and at peace with himself ... it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things." He later told The Guardian, "I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence." And from NPR:
Sendak says his own unhappy childhood is the reason that danger lurks in his picture books. The Holocaust claimed the lives of many of his family members. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby terrified him. He had an uneasy relationship with his father.
"Childhood is a tricky business," Sendak says. "Usually, something goes wrong."
That theme got him into trouble with adult critics in the past, but he's not worried about how his younger readers will react.
"Kids," he explains, "are so shrewd."
Although boys are the protagonists of his most famous books, Sendak once admitted a soft spot for girls:
I would infinitely prefer a daughter. If I had a son, I would leave him at the A&P or some other big advertising place where somebody who needs a kid would find him and he would be all right. ... A daughter would be drawn to me. A daughter would want to help me. Girls are infinitely more complicated than boys and women more than men. And there's no doubt about that. We just don't like to think about it. Certainly the men don't like to think about it. I have lived my whole life with a dream daughter. 
In the final scene of Bumble-Ardy, the rumpus is over and all is well.

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