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Feb 9 2012

Maurice Sendak Ripped Off Sesame Street (Not Really)

By at 10:56 am

bumble-ardy by maurice sendakIt’s hard to put into words how much Maurice Sendak means to me. I know I’m not alone in this–Where The Wild Things Are touched a nerve from the moment it hit bookstore shelves in 1964, and even though he comes across as a crotchety old curmudgeon in interviews (we’re talking Colbert Report), let’s be serious: the Little Bear illustrations show someone with a deep, sensory memory of a mother’s love.

A lot of people didn’t like the movie version of Where The Wild Things Are. I was afraid to see it– not because I feared it wouldn’t do justice to the book, but because I felt instinctively that in the hands of Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, the chord struck deep inside me would be played so loud that I might shatter. I was right. To me, it was beautiful, mystifying, hallucinatory, true– confirmation that the best children’s book authors understand and remember both the cozy ying and the frightening yang of childhood.

Hearing the latest round of interviews with Sendak (including a touching perhaps-farewell on NPR’s Fresh Air and a truly hilarious appearance on The Colbert Report), I was alerted to the presence of his latest book, which I promptly ran out and acquired.

Little admission here: I pretend to buy Maurice Sendak books for my daughters, but they’re really for me. Penny went though a passionate devotion to most of them–she will shriek, “I’m not the milk and the milk’s not me! Iiiiiiii’m MICKEY!” if I give her half a chance– and she was even quietly fascinated through one reading of Higglety Pigglety Pop, which is really not a children’s book at all. But in general, she will not pick the Sendak books on her own, even with the Mom-generated special wild rumpus song (I will sing it for you if you call me).

Anywho, so I get Bumble-Ardy and I’m reading it to Penelope and I panic. I totally freeze. Because when I get to the part where she shrieks, “Get lost! Vamoose! Just scram! Before I slice you all into ham!” I suddenly remembered I had heard these words before… in a Sesame Street animation from my childhood.

I got so worried about Maurice Sendak. I worried that I was the only one who had made this connection, and worried that this terrible secret would harm him. That someone would notice that he’d involuntarily stolen the story. That he’d be humiliated and ruined in the last years of his life. I couldn’t tell anyone–they might take it to the media. Wait, I am the media! I have to save me from myself!

Thank God for Google. Yes, yes, Sendak made the original cartoon for Sesame Street and re-worked it for the book. Oh, it’s classic Sendak–things going awry and askew in ways that are all too real, that make me worry like the fish in Cat in the Hat, though things come out all right in the end… sort of.

Anyway, in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the original Bumble Ardy, which should inspire you for your own bedtime-reading performance. (Does Bumble himself sound familiar? Like Ernie or Kermit the Frog? That’s because he’s Jim Henson, suckas!)

What do you like better– Bumble Ardy the animation, or the book? And why? Discuss.


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