The first book in 30 years that beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak has written and illustrated is the story of a pig’s chaotic birthday party.
That doesn’t sound nearly as frightening as the fearsome characters in the celebrated “Where the Wild Things Are.” But parents are just as up in arms over a Sendak story as they were when “Wild Things” came out in 1963, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
“Bumble-Ardy” follows the story of 9-year-old orphaned pig Bumble who has never had a birthday party. When Bumble decides to throw the ultimate party at his aunt’s house while she is gone, it results in more than a few fright-inducing moments, including some grotesque costume masks and an appearance by the Grim Reaper.
Parents may feel particularly nervous because the monsters in this story appear inside the house, not on a remote island as they were in “Wild Things.” And they may not be pleased by the debauched pigs who attend the party, swigging brine. (In the first draft, the pigs drank wine, but Sendak conceded and changed it to brine for the final version.)
Very few of the parent reviews of “Bumble-Ardy” have been specific about what bothers them about the book. Most say they just don’t like it.
A teacher reviewer on Amazon.com called “Bumble-Ardy” a “disturbing book in so many ways.”
Another reviewer, who bought the book for her grandchild, wrote: “I do not think children will understand or see any particular humor in this book... Too difficult for younger children.”
Sendak says parents are unwilling to acknowledge and deal with the nightmarish fantasies children have. He told the New York Times 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 while Sendak has been accused of striking fear into children’s hearts for years, the Atlantic writes that the paradox of his books is that “so often, children and adults disagree about them.”
Whole civil wars have broken out in households over Sendak books, the Atlantic recounts, because so often — despite parental unease — children have absolutely adored them.
Sometimes, parents come around. “Where the Wild Things Are” later became a literary success — for all ages.
But will they come around to “Bumble-Ardy”? Look at the scenes of revelry! the carousing! the perversity!
When all the uproar dies down, they might realize that “Bumble-Ardy” is as imaginative as Sendak’s prior works. They might realize that it’s even a bit more fun. And they might realize that, like “Wild Things,” Bumble’s story offers kids “a safe way to explore the fantasy of parentlessness,” the Atlantic writes, “before returning, content and reassured, to loving arms.”