Should Parents Fear ‘Bumble-Ardy’, Maurice Sendak’s New Book?

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Harper Collins

A new children’s book, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, the author of Where the Wild Things Are, is about an occasionally demented-looking (but fun-loving!) pig’s blowout birthday bash. It seems to have a few parents grumbling.

The book, Bumble-Ardy, describes a 9-year-old pig’s plans to throw a kind of makeup crazy-big birthday party at his aunt’s house while she’s away. Needless to say, the party soon gets out of hand. Why makeup? Because, in the book’s words, “Bumble-Ardy had no party when he turned one (his immediate family frowned on fun).” That, and after six successive birthday-party strikeouts, Bumble-Ardy’s parents “gorged and gained weight…and got ate.” Clearly this prepubescent pig’s a candidate for a sit-down with Oprah.

(PHOTOS: Kids’ Books Come to Life)

It’s yet another mildly subversive children’s book by a writer known for pushing—if not the absolute limits, at least poking around their edges. At one point, even the Grim Reaper puts in an appearance, leading one Amazon reviewer (granted, one of only three to date) to describe the book as “disturbing…in so many ways” (noticed by the Christian Science Monitor).

Then again, being a little scared isn’t the end of the world. Where the Wild Things Are would be nothing without its nightmarish horned and bearded monsters that “roared their terrible roars, and gnashed their terrible teeth.” Besides, if you want to see something really scary, try this old 1970s Sesame Street clip—also by Sendak, and the inspiration for the 2011 book’s inception—about Bumble-Ardy, whose ninth birthday party’s crashed by a pack of anarchic, Dwarf-like swine. There’s something deeply dark and wonderful about older cartoons like this.

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Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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