Maruice Sendak, author Where the Wild Things Are, has published Bumble-Ardy, based on a animated sketch in Sesame Street, where a pig throws himself a birthday party that quickly gets out of hand. In the lead-up to this release, Sendak has granted a number of interviews which are fascinating, and a bit sad (Paris Review, The Guardian). He has always had some darkness in his books, but these interviews show him as a surprisingly angry man. That darkness is what makes Where the Wild Things Are so perplexing and intriguing, and The Juniper Tree (illustrated tales from Grimm) so perfect. Even his humor in What Do You Do, Dear? and What Do You Say, Dear? is a little dark - and all the more enchanting because it is so. Was he always this angry? Does he know how many people he has inspired, and how much joy his work has given? I don't know, but I do know that I love his work, and look forward to seeing Bumble-Ardy, which sounds like quite a ruckus! (For more of my reviews of Sendak work, click here.)
Eric Carle has also released a new picture book, after ten odd years, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse. Inspired by the work of Franz Marc, a German expressionist, who painted blue horses and yellow cows - but Carle puts his own dear nonsensical spin on it - a green lion, a polka-dotted donkey. In this he continues to inspire a child to really see. As he says in a really marvelous video interview on Amazon, "You don't have to stay within the lines. In art you're supposed to be free. Let them open their eyes." See some of my favorite Carle books here and here and purchase some here.
Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer's The Phantom Tollbooth is celebrating it's 50th Anniversary this year, and two special editions have been released: one with annotations by Leonard Marcus and the other with brief essays from a number of people about what it meant to them as a child.
I am shocked to find I've never reviewed this masterpiece! Well, then: let me point you to the fantastic article by New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik that includes an interview of the author and illustrator (who were housemates and good friends).
Juster, who speaks with the soft accents of the old Brooklyn, began recalling the origins of the book: “I had come back from the service, and I went to work in an architectural office. I was really kind of bored with everything, and I think, I’ll do a little book on cities. The kind of book that will be interesting for kids. I applied to the Ford Foundation for a grant—old saying, when God wants to punish you, he gives you what you ask for!—and got the grant.”Read it quickly--The New Yorker tends to archive its articles every week. Also, Michael Chabon, author of Wonderboys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavallier and Clay, wrote a great little essay in The New York Review of Books about his introduction to The Phantom Tollbooth
“Five thousand bucks you got!” Feiffer interjected.
“Was it that much? Anyway, I was up to my ass in worries and notes and couldn’t get it done. And so I took a vacation with friends, at the beach, Fire Island.”
“Probably with me!”
“No, it wasn’t you, Jules,” Juster added, though he explained that they already shared a roof. Stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1956, Juster had found a garden apartment—“That’s what they call a basement room in Brooklyn,” Feiffer noted—in the Brooklyn Heights building where Feiffer was living, two floors up.
“My guilt for not doing it was overwhelming,” Juster continued. “So I started work on a little story about a kid who didn’t know what to do with himself, and didn’t like to learn. It was Milo! At that point, I just kept writing. When I finished the book, I felt very worried and very guilty. I thought the Ford Foundation was going to demand the money back.”
“I wondered what became of our money,” Feiffer said.
“After the book came out, I never heard from them. Long time later, I found that they were delighted about it.”
Finally: the fascinating and sad tale of the inheritor of the rights of Goodnight Moon.