The first book both written illustrated by Maurice Sendak in 30 years, Bumble-Ardy starts on a familiar note: a child character, feeling mistreated by adults, looks to start some mischief. This time, our hero is a nine-year-old pig whose parents, due to negligence or malevolence, have never thrown him a birthday party. After his parents gorge themselves and therefore become food themselves, poor Bumble-Ardy goes to live with his sweet aunt Adeline, who throws him a quiet but lovely ninth birthday celebration. But that’s not enough for the long-deprived little pig. When Adeline leaves for work, he throws a ruckus of a party on his own, inviting hordes of his unusual-looking friends to an all-out bash. Like Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are, Bumble-Ardy is a dark, moody work.
The illustrations are decidedly uncute – the party pages are packed to the margins with perversely ugly characters and chaos, almost Boschian (only fuzzier and PG-rated) in their depictions of excess. Sendak isn’t known for warm, cuddly kids’ books, but this one lacks the redeeming spirit of adventure that infused every page of Wild Things. Still, Sendak fans will enjoy the author’s familiar visual style and lovely rhymes. Bumble-Ardy won’t give children nightmares, but its violent undertones and pervading theme of disappointment may be more suitable for adults who are nostalgic for a defiant, wolf-costumed boy named Max.