Did you have the Maurice Sendak book, In the Night Kitchen, when you were a kid? I didn’t; my best friend did. He had Where the Wild Things Are, too, but that one was scary to me. In the Night Kitchen was cute and funny and I liked it much better. One of the most memorable things about that book is that the little boy is naked on several pages, which is probably just about every kid’s most prominent memory of that book, I’m sure.
I remember us pointing and giggling at his naked parts every time we read the story, which was often. I didn’t have any picture books with nudity, and here was one with a naked kid on more than one page! How cool was that?
Maurice Sendak’s books, and that one in particular, have held a special place in my book-loving heart for as long as I can remember. Imagine my delight when, in 1999, I found an entire section of a San Francisco shopping center that was Maurice Sendak-themed. The Metreon was brand new and had a play area and restaurant that brought lots of those childhood memories back. I was pregnant with Katie at the time, and I bought several of Sendak’s picture books in the gift shop—I wanted our kids to enjoy some of the same stories I once had. I took bunches of photos that day and I have no idea where they are or I’d scan them to share. It was really a cute attraction. Here is the first in a series of videos someone posted on YouTube. (The Metreon has since been converted into a boring mall; according to this Wikipedia page, all the Sendak stuff is gone. Bummer.)
When I worked the book fair at the kids’ school this past fall, I picked In the Night Kitchen off the shelf and was shocked at what I found—so shocked, in fact, that I had to take pictures. Mickey had underpants!
This is the unedited version:
I took more pictures…
Mickey got all covered up, thanks to a Sharpie. I don’t know if these unders were courtesy of the librarian, a concerned parent, or a nerdy kid who thought Mickey’s free-swingin’, free-wheelin’ attitude was too much for his classmates. But I’ll be honest—it bugged me a little to see this book censored. It’s innocent; why’d they have to “fix” it? I searched the ‘net for “Maurice Sendak censorship” and found that this happens frequently. I also found out about some subtle and not-so-subtle messages in his stories, not unlike Dr. Seuss’s books (this is just one of many reasons I still find children’s literature so fascinating, naked kids or no).
Looking back, I don’t know if it was a conscious choice of my parents that I didn’t have my own copy of In the Night Kitchen, but if they were trying to protect me I think this is the right time to tell the world that my mom gave Jack a book for Christmas called The Day My Butt Went Psycho.
I’m just sayin’.