What made "Where The Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak so great is that it was so unassuming. I can still remember reading the book for the first time as a kid. I was born almost 10 years after it was published in 1963, so by the time I got my hands on it around 1980, it was already considered a good read. But I didn't know that when I first cracked the cover. I did know that the illustrations looked cool — kind of dark and creepy and different from those found in most kids' book. Within the first few pages, I knew that Max and I were going to be good friends. I expected nothing when I first read "Where The Wild Things Are" and I got everything — words and illustrations that I could devour and get lost in.
So you can imagine my excitement at the new release of "Bumble-Ardy," the first book that Sendak has written and illustrated in 30 years. Unfortunately, with "Bumble-Ardy," I expected everything and was left holding on to nothing.
The plot boils down to this: Bumble-Ardy is a mischievous pig who reaches the age of 9 without ever having a birthday party. So one night when his aunt is at work, he decides to throw himself a party and invites all of his friends. In typical Sendak style, the party quickly gets out of hand.
A recent Washington Post article noted that many parents were disappointed in Sendak's new book, calling the story and illustrations too scary for kids. In an interview with the New York Times, Sendak countered that children’s books have tried to “keep [kids] calm, keep them happy, keep them snug and safe... I got out of that, and I was considered outlandish. So be it.”
But I wasn't as concerned that Bumble-Ardy and his pals basically got drunk on "swine" and destroyed his aunt's home as I was that there really seemed to be no point to the story. "Wild Things" tells the tale about a young boy who gets into trouble and imagines himself as leader of a new "wild" world, only to return safely to the arms of his mother when things get out of hand. "Bumble-Ardy" is the story about a pig whose aunt tries to give him everything he wants for his birthday and leaves work early to be with him on his big day only to find that he and his debauched friends have destroyed her home. It's not fun or funny — it's really just kind of sad.
I asked my 9-year-old what she thought after reading the book. Her response: "It felt like it was missing something." She has a knack for hitting the nail on the head.