I'll Never Grow Up! Bumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak
BUMBLE-ARDY HAD NO PARTY WHEN HE TURNED ONE.
HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY FROWNED ON FUN.
In fact, piglet Bumble misses his first eight opportunities for a birthday bash with his Puritanical pig family, who discourage any joy among their brood. They, however, do not eschew the pleasures of the trough for themselves, and eventually get so temptingly plump that nature (or animal husbandry) takes its course:
BUT WHEN BUMBLE-ARDY WAS EIGHT,
(OH, PIG-KNUCKLED FATE!)
HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY GORGED AND GAINED WEIGHT
AND GOT ATE.
However, fate steps in for our porcine orphan, and Bumble-Ardy is adopted by the kindly and doting Adeline ("an aunt divine!") and things look hopeful for his upcoming ninth natal day. In fact, the day starts promisingly, with a lovely cake and a festively-wrapped gift, a captivating Hotsy-Totsy Cowboy suit complete with Stetson, high-heeled boots, and a pair of six-shooters. Bumble is sure that this will be the year for his first party.
EXCEPT, HIS AUNT, SWEET ADELINE,
WHO LEFT AT ONE PAST NINE
TO GO TO WORK FOR SMITH AND KLEIN,
JUST HATED SWINE TO DRINK HER BRINE,
NOT EVEN ON A DAY SO FINE
AS BUMBLE'S BIRTHDAY NUMBER NINE.
SO HE SIMPLY DIDN'T TELL HER.
As Bumble admires his costumed image in the mirror he has an idea, a magnificently mischievous idea. He can throw his own birthday bash--a piggy costume party to make up for the belated eight he has coming to him.
AT NINE PAST NINE THE PIGGY SWINE
BROKE DOWN THE DOOR AND GUZZLED BRINE
AND HOGGED SWEET CAKES
AND OINKED LOUD GRUNTS,
AND PULLED ALL KINDS OF DIRTY STUNTS.
It is a proper Sendakian "wild rumpus" as the porkers party hearty in Aunt Adeline's pristine house, a Bacchanalian swirl of swigging swine and hip-hopping hogs. It seems as if every character in Western literature and folklore makes his piggy cameo appearance, even the Grim Reaper swinging his scythe along with his booty as the guests parade a banner proclaiming "MAY BUMBLE LIVE 900 YEARS!"
The mob boogies down and Bumble is ecstatic until suddenly the mistress of the house returns:
"I'LL GIVE YOU PIGS TILL NUMBER NINE,
TO SCAT, GET LOST, VAMOOSE, JUST SCRAM.
OR ELSE I'LL SLICE YOU INTO HAM!"
And then she turns her ire on the perpetrating piglet, the now weeping Bumble-Ardy.
"OKAY, SMARTY, YOU'VE HAD YOUR PARTY.
BUT NEVER AGAIN."
"I PROMISE, I SWEAR!
I'LL NEVER TURN TEN!"
This poignant promise melts Aunt Adeline's anger away, and all ends well in the sort of forgiveness that any young miscreant might hope for, as she envelopes him in her arms.
"OH, MY PESKY BUCKEROO!
DO YOU LOVE ME LIKE I LOVE YOU?"
Based on an animated Sesame Street film done with Jim Hensen in 1970, Maurice Sendak (yes, that Maurice Sendak!) is still around and in fine form in the first picture book written and illustrated by the old master since Outside Over There, his just published BUMBLE-ARDY (HarperCollins, 2011).
Like most of Sendak's classics, his latest is a deeply layered story, with dark insights interwoven with pure childlike exuberance. Nobody does a Freudian ruckus like Sendak, whose text and characteristic illustrations have the power to return to prod young readers' psyches long after they think they've put away childish things like picture books. A must-have for every picture book collection, and a gift from a giant of children's literature who shows he's still got the goods. Like the returning Max's waiting dinner*, Sendak is "still hot."
*Remember the last page in Where the Wild Things Are?