Sunday, July 31, 2011

Maurice Sendak is Back at 83 With Bumble-Ardy, New Book Based on Sesame Street Cartoon

Remember Maurice Sendak, the writer and artist who gave us Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen?  At the age of 83, he's back with a new children's book, Bumble-Ardy, which will be released on September 6.

Best known for his children's classics, Sendak is a multi-faceted artist whose work also includes stage sets and costume design for both opera and ballet. Born in Brooklyn in 1928 to Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Sendak grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, during which many members of his family were lost. Three main themes pervade his work: the Old World of East European Jewry; Sendak's own experiences growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, influenced by American popular culture; and the artist's desire to process the horrors of the Holocaust while reconciling with Germanic culture by embracing its richness, bringing the artist back full circle to his own past. 

The August issue of Vanity Fair has a story about Sendak and his works, focusing on his latest book, whose main character, a nine-year-old boy, first appeared in a Jim Henson-produced cartoon on Sesame Street in the 1970s.

In this portrait of the author, Dave Eggers writes:
Bumble-Ardy has a characteristically grim beginning. The young protagonist, a pig, suffers through the first eight years of his life without his family recognizing, let alone celebrating, his birthday. Then his parents are eaten, leaving him alone in the world. Would it be fair to say that childhood neglect and parental disappearance are favorite Sendak themes? “That’s all I’ve ever written about. As a kid, all I thought about was death. But you can’t tell your parents that.”
Bumble-Ardy goes to live with his aunt Adeline, and when she fails to throw him a party on his ninth birthday, he throws one for himself. Like all Sendakian rumpuses, it gets out of hand, and for 10 pages we’re treated to the most bizarre tableau of celebrants, all in costume: pigs dressed as monsters, pigs dressed as cowboys and Indians, pigs dressed as old ladies painted garishly. As with any Sendak book, the pictures are full of references and echoes. One pig is reading a newspaper that says, WE READ BANNED BOOKS. A sheriff’s yellow badge calls back to the Warsaw Ghetto. Messages are written in Hebrew, Italian, Russian. One placard, held by a yellow pig in overalls, asks, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Here's the original cartoon from Sesame Street, followed by an interview with Maurice Sendak in his studio, in which he talks about the joy of work, upcoming projects, and his love of bad TV.  Enjoy!

(A tip of the kippah to Fay Grajower for bringing this story to our attention.)

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