A master reincarnates his old Sesame Street cartoon with a dark pathos and fascinating manic energy.
As one of the original architects of gleeful mischief and serious woe in modern picture books, Sendak employs both here. “Did you know / That Bumble-Ardy missed / Eight birthdays in a row?” opens the narration, the weeping porcine protagonist placing trotter to forehead. His original family “frowned on fun” and then (being pigs) “got ate,” landing Bumble with adoptive “Adeline, that aunt divine.” Luckily, “Bumble-Ardy had a party when he was nine.” A pleasant, mild illustration shows Adeline in their slatted, open-air house presenting cake and gift, Bumble murmuring “Yippee!” But emotional complexity lurks: Bumble’s eyes are red-rimmed, and nearby animals look gloomy and skeptical. Adeline gone to work, Bumble (permission-less) invites “grubby swine // To come for birthday cake and brine.” Costumes evoke Bread & Puppet and Cinco de Mayo at this rambunctious masquerade ball; partiers revel with sinister gusto. During the multi-spread rumpus, rhyme sneaks onto signs: “Cheers! / Cheers! / Cheers! / May Bumble live 900 years!” When furious Adeline ejects the guests, her face morphs into a horror mask, but then she “Took in her Bumble valentine / And kissed him nine times over nine. // Now, ain’t that fine?” Children and parents both will require many trips through to even begin to accommodate the emotional shifts here.
Edgier than Sesame’s original, this contains all the layered meaning that makes Sendak’s books readable over and over. (Picture book. 4 & up)