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Originally published Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 7:00 PM

New books by kid-lit legends

Kids' books: A look at the new offerings from authors Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Corner: New books by kid-lit legends Sendak, Silverstein, Dr. Seuss

Young readers can delight in new books by a trio of giants in the children's-literature world.

Of these three, only Maurice Sendak is still living. The new books by the other two authors, Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, have been published posthumously.

Here's a closer look:

• Sendak provoked outbursts of adult disapproval when his book, "Where the Wild Things Are," was published in 1963, with some grown-ups complaining that it was too scary for children. The outbursts grew louder when, in 1964, the book won the Caldecott Medal, given annually by the American Library Association to the best-illustrated children's book.

Ursula Nordstrom, the legendary Harper & Row editor who had discovered Sendak years before, was incensed by the criticism. In a letter to a friend, which is reprinted in "Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom," edited by Leonard Marcus, Nordstrom wrote: "It is always the adults we have to contend with — most children under the age of 10 will react creatively to the best work of a truly creative person."

It turns out that Nordstrom was right, and "Where the Wild Things Are" now is regarded as one of the best children's picture books ever published. Since then, Sendak has created a number of other memorable picture books, including "In the Night Kitchen," which is one of the most-challenged children's books because the main character is seen naked.

Sendak's newest picture book, "Bumble-Ardy" (HarperCollins, $17.95, ages 3-6), seems likely to again inflame adults who worry about too-scary picture books. But Sendak, now 83 and known for speaking his mind, obviously isn't worried. The opening illustration in "Bumble-Ardy" shows the main character, a pig, holding a newspaper with the headline: "We Read Banned Books!"

It turns out that Bumble-Ardy has never had a birthday party because "his family frowned on fun." After his family "got ate," Bumble-Ardy is adopted by his Aunt Adeline; when her nephew turns 9, Aunt Adeline decides to mark the day with some special surprises.

Bumble-Ardy enjoys his aunt's birthday effort, but already has set an even bigger celebration in motion. His aunt wouldn't be happy with such a major affair, but when she's off at work, Bumble-Ardy invites folks to come celebrate his birthday in costume.

The party's in full swing when a furious Aunt Adeline arrives home. She tells her nephew: "Okay, Smarty, you've had your party! But never again." A chastened Bumble-Ardy replies: "I promise! I swear! I won't ever turn ten!"

Sendak's book, the first he has written and illustrated in 30 years, will resonate with kids, who are big on birthdays. But it's his colorful illustrations — including several wordless two-page spreads filled with bunches of zany-looking pigs — that really steal the show. A "wild rumpus," indeed, this book masterfully combines a crazy birthday celebration with the thought-provoking idea that someday the birthdays must end.

• If you ask kids to name their favorite poet, the odds are they'll answer with "Shel Silverstein." Although he died in 1999, Silverstein's poetry books, including "Falling Up," "A Light in the Attic" and "Where the Sidewalk Ends," are classics with young readers who love the way he mixes wordplay with huge doses of humor. Then, of course, there are the trademark Silverstein drawings, which seem to say so much in just a few lines.

Now, with the publication of "Every Thing On It" (HarperCollins, $19.99, ages 7 up), young readers have one more Silverstein volume to relish. Drawn from Silverstein archives, this new book, with 145 never-before-seen poems, is a more-than-worthy companion to the previous volumes.

Here, for example, is the poignant opening poem, titled "Years From Now":

"Although I cannot see your face

"As you flip these poems awhile

"Somewhere from some far-off place

"I hear you laughing — and I smile."

The book includes plenty of Silverstein's earthy humor, from a poem titled "Burpin' Ben" to "Garlic Breath." The book ends with a real heart-zinger titled "When I Am Gone":

"When I am gone what will you do?

"Who will write and draw for you?

"Someone smarter — someone new?

"Someone better — maybe YOU!"

• Dr. Seuss' millions of fans will be thrilled to read a new book of his tales, "The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories" (Random House, $15, ages 4-8).

Featuring seven stories that were first published in magazines in the 1950s, this book will seem immediately familiar to Dr. Seuss readers, who will revel in the comic couplets about madcap creatures and wacky situations. Among the funniest stories are "Gustav, the Goldfish," which tells what happens when a boy overfeeds his pet fish, and "The Strange Shirt Spot," a tale of dirt gone wild.

This book features an introduction by Seuss scholar Charles Cohen, who explains the genesis of the stories, and how he came to know of them.

"Dr. Seuss" was the pen name for Theodor Seuss Geisel, who died in 1991.

Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.

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