Pushing the boundaries with picture books
Maurice Sendak’s newest picture book came out last week. At first glance of the cover, there was something about this book that intrigued me. Meet Bumble-Ardy. Bumble-Ardy is the tale of a nine-year-old pig that has never had a birthday party. And this is his story.
Before I read the text, I flipped through and looked at the pictures. There are a couple of double-page spreads without text. The story is implied in the pictures and the reader can describe the vivid array of characters as warmly or as disgruntled as they like. Without knowing the context of the story, I felt I had been transported to Mardi-Gras. The characters in costume are a bit strange, rather weird. To young children, they may even appear scary.
And then I read the book aloud. Sure, the story is a bit dark and macabre, but I loved the way the words slid off my tongue. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, and as the text told me one thing, and the images took me as far as I wanted to go, I thought to myself – this is the art of the picture book.
So here’s the thing. This is the type of book you’re either going to love, or you're going to hate. It’s a bit dark, the images a bit unusual. It’s not the type of picture book I would read with a child under 5. But children 5 and up, I think would love this book.
Maurice Sendak was recently interviewed saying that picture books these days are too safe. He wants to challenge parents and children. I agree with him. Children need to learn to manage emotions – including fear—in a safe environment, curled up on the laps of their parents.
I also think this picture book will appeal to older children. When older children struggle with their reading, we suggest boosting skill and confidence with picture books. We often struggle to find picture books that are the reading level but also interesting enough for them. This book doesn’t talk down to children. it’s complex and interesting enough that children of all ages – and reading levels—will appreciate it.
I like warm fuzzy books. I can’t lie, most of my favourite books have the ‘ahhhh’ factor. I normally like books that feel like a hug. And after you’ve closed the covers you feel good inside. Well guess what, this book has that too.