Based on Sendak’s series of 10 illustrations of Czech nonsense rhymes, an equally nonsensical story.
According to Yorinks’ afterword, he and Sendak cooked it up on a lark, “riffing on a story that might turn these disparate pictures into a cohesive picture book.” “Cohesive” is a stretch. The title characters find themselves one day in Limboland, where a “maniac shepherd boy” apprises them of the sugar beets’ imminent nuptials. Told by a goat that if no one brings a present they will “all be stuck in Limboland forever,” and learning that there is only one possible present—the monster Bumbo’s bagpipes—they determine to secure it. Their peregrinations take them past myriad peculiar scenes: a wood chopper taking an axe to a loaf of bread, a bear sewing his wedding outfit, a man cooking a woman in a cauldron, and “an old woman from the old country…using mumbo-jumbo and heebie-jeebie,” among others. They successfully steal the bagpipes, attend the wedding, eat cake, and go home. The framed, full-page illustrations, each set opposite a block of text, are trademark Sendak, populated by doughy, white humans and expressive animals in an Old World setting. Each taken by itself presents a patently absurd scenario that invites readers unfamiliar with the original rhymes to speculate on its circumstances. However, the narrative imposed by Yorinks and Sendak both closes off that avenue of imagination and fails to present anything resembling a satisfying story. Yorinks writes of the initial “brainstorming session” that “all I specifically remember…is…both of us laughing like crazy.”
Reading more like a private joke (and a rather mean-spirited one at that) than a story, this posthumous effort may please scholars but is likely to disappoint readers hoping for a new Sendak on par with his earlier works. (Picture book. 5-adult)