In his last finished work, Sendak tips a cap to intellectual and artistic influences, but he puts his own unique stamp on a lyrical flight that looks toward a reunion with Jack, his long-dead brother.
As vivid and surreal as a dream, the narrative begins with the separation of Jack—catapulted to “continents of ice” where “[h]is poor nose froze”—and Guy, who lands “[o]n soft Bohemia” to be consumed by a hulking bear after posing his brother’s fate as a “sad riddle.” “Diving through time so vast—sweeping past paradise,” Guy emerges at last into a mystical springtime where he finds Jack entwined in roots and “veiled blossoms.” Guy bites Jack’s nose “to be sure” and hearing his brother’s sighed “Just lost—when I am saved!” enfolds him tenderly, whispering “Good night / And you will dream of me.” In the small, loosely brushed paintings on each facing page, he depicts the brothers, reminiscent of William Blake’s diaphanously gowned figures. Befitting the surreal textual imagery, they float in twisted postures amid stars and organic billows of moonlit clouds and landscape or lie together beneath canopies of greenery. The literary references (to Shakespeare, Keats, Emily Dickinson and others) may escape many, but they are secondary to the book’s impact.
The sharply felt humor and yearning that infuse both the verbal and visual narratives will kindle profound emotional responses in hearts of any age. (introduction by Stephen Greenblatt) (Illustrated poem. All ages)