Shel Silverstein isn’t the only author of what have become classic kids books to have a new book coming out. Maurice Sendak, the beloved writer and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, has just published a book about 9-year-old Bumble-ardy, an orphaned pig who as never had a birthday party.
Terri Gross interviewed Sendak for NPR’s show Fresh Air and the 83-year-old talks about what he was going through in his personal life while creating Bumble-ardy. His longtime partner, Eugene Glynn, was dying of lung cancer. Here’s what he says on Fresh Air:
“When I did Bumble-ardy, I was so intensely aware of death,” he says. “Eugene, my friend and partner, was dying here in the house when I did Bumble-ardy. I did Bumble-ardy to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live as any human being does. But there’s no question that the book was affected by what was going on here in the house. … Bumble-ardy was a combination of the deepest pain and the wondrous feeling of coming into my own. And it took a long time. It took a very long time.”
But the book is hardly dark — certainly no darker than any of his other works. In it, the pig and author stay true to their young, alive and creative selves. Because Bumble-ardy has never had a birthday celebration, he decides to throw himself a costume party, an affair richly detailed in a typical style of Sendak. Bumble-ardy’s aunt thought he was having a simple dinner for two to celebrate, but when she finds out she says:
“Okay smarty, you’ve had your party but never again.” Bumble-ardy replies, “I promise, I swear, I won’t ever turn 10.”
Sendak’s books feature mainly boys, which makes what he tells Gross in his interview particularly interesting. Sendak isn’t a father but if he had been, he would have wanted to raise a girl.
“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.”