July 10, 2017

Beloved author Maurice Sendak has one more book in him


It’s always strange when an author dies, years go by, and a new manuscript emerges from their archives. Recently, it’s happened with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jackie Collins. Dr. Seuss put out a book twenty-four years after his death. Generally, it’s almost impossible to imagine these writers, who’ve often left detailed wills, intended for this work to be published.

Nevertheless, here we are—again—with a manuscript from Maurice Sendak, who died in 2012.

As Danuta Kean reports in the Guardian, “An unpublished picture book by Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, has been found hidden deep in his archives, five years after his death — somewhat like a little boy lost in the jungle after being sent to his room with no supper.” The new book, Presto and Zesto in Limboland, features illustrations by Sendak’s friend and collaborator Arthur Yorinks, originally intended to accompany a 1990 production of Leoš Janáček’s nursery song cycle Říkadla. “Presto” and “Zesto” were the pals’ nicknames for each other.

The circumstances are unusual for several reasons. For one thing, Yorinks is still alive and presumably has known about this manuscript for the past twenty years. Further, as we reported back in 2014, the materials of his archive were supposed to have been thoroughly cataloged and divided between the estate and the Rosenbach Museum. So, you’re telling me that in the course of preserving his materials for the generations to come, the estate missed an entire manuscript only to find it five years later?


Kean describes the discovery of manuscript:

The typewritten manuscript and illustrations… were discovered in Connecticut by Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation. Caponera was his housekeeper, assistant and friend for many years…

Caponera emailed the picture book to Sendak’s longtime editor, Michael di Capua, who told Publishers Weekly (PW) that he read it in disbelief: “What a miracle to find this buried treasure in the archives. To think something as good as this has been lying around there gathering dust.”

I’m sorry, but the stew really thickens here. Sendak’s former housekeeper, who probably knew where all the little knickknacks of his life were stored, finds a new book after all this time?

Oh well. Fishiness aside, I’m sure it’ll be a charming read. Forthcoming from HarperCollins in the fall of 2018.



Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.