Sendak returns after 3 decades

BUMBLE-ARDY . By Maurice Sendak. For ages 4-8. HarperCollins. 40 pages. $17.95.

BUMBLE-ARDY. By Maurice Sendak. For ages 4-8. HarperCollins. 40 pages. $17.95.

For the first time in 30 years, a new Maurice Sendak picture book is on the shelves -- one that he has both written and illustrated. At 83, the illustrations and text of his newest work are as vibrant, fanciful and detailed as "Where the Wild things Are."

Based on a 1970s animated segment for "Sesame Street," "Bumble-Ardy" is the story of a mischievous pig that has never had a birthday party. For his 10th birthday, he decides to invite all of his friends and throw himself a party. But the wild masquerade soon gets out of hand.

As in many of Sendak's books, the tales are as much for adults as children. The stories can be harsh and even offensive by some standards, but that is also what makes them touching and authentic. Children tend to see past the challenges and revel in the fantasy. "Bumble-Ardy" is no exception. Like his classic, "Where the Wild Things Are," Sendak explores childhood exuberance and energy as well as familial bonds that cannot be broken.

It took 30 years to get a new work of art from this master of children's picture books, and although it is excellent, let's hope that it is not his last.

McGeath Freeman reviews children's books for Lowcountry Parent magazine. To see previous reviews, visit www.lowcountryparent.com.