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An illustration from “In the Night Kitchen” by genius (and Beautiful Man) Maurice Sendak. Click for source.

“Do you remember In the Night Kitchen?” asked Lynn. “It came out around 1970, so most of us probably had it as kids.”

“You mean the one with the naked little boy?” said Clay. “My parents disapproved of it, so I never read it.”

“It actually scares some children,” said Michael. “Tucker had nightmares after we read it to him. He thought he was going to be baked into a cake.”

“I adored it,” said Laura. “I was so envious of Mickey, falling naked into that cake batter, and then skinnydipping in a bottle of milk. I took a gallon of whole milk from the fridge and tried to bathe in it, but it didn’t come even close to filling the tub. My Mom was furious with me.” She noticed that they were all staring at her and James was laughing. “What?”

“You just erased any lingering doubt about whether you’re completely demented,” said June disgustedly. “What is it with you and dairy products?”

I have to admit that Laura is my alter ego. To this day, I wish I could bathe in milk like Cleopatra and Elizabeth I. They say it’s very good for the skin. But falling naked into a giant vat of cake batter would be pretty cool too. Cake-batter diving, performed in the nude, ought to be the next Olympic sport.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) is one of my favorite illustrators. When I was a young child, I purchased his miniature book trilogy, The Nutshell Library (1962). Those were the first miniature books I owned, and I still have them with their original slipcase (though sadly not the dust-jackets for each tiny volume).

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The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak.

Later, I was given his book Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More To Life, about a sealyham terrier named Jenny, who leaves her comfortable life to seek Experience (are you sensing that Sendak was a William Blake fan?) and ends up starring in the World Mother Goose Theatre. This book had a huge impact on my young impressionable mind. I found the illustrations disturbing yet compelling, reminiscent of Tenniel’s drawings for Alice in Wonderland.


Jennie and the Lion perform in the World Mother Goose Theatre, from Maurice Sendak’s “Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More To Life” (1979) Click to enlarge.


Jennie as nanny to Baby, in “Higglety Pigglety Pop!”

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Maurice Sendak (Huff Post)

Laura’s obsession with creamy dairy products is recounted in my book New York Groove, volume 2 in the James and Laura trilogy.