Presto and Zesto in Limboland

illus. by Maurice Sendak. 28p. Michael di Capua. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780062644657.
PreS-Gr 2—Humor and drama permeate this picaresque tale presented in loosely related episodes. An afterword by Yorinks describes the story's genesis (and exodus). Between 1925 and 1927, Czech composer Leoš Janá ek composed Ríkadla, a choral piece inspired by both the charm of indigent nursery rhymes and their interpretation by compatriot, illustrator Josef Lada. In 1990, the London Symphony Orchestra invited Sendak to create projections for Janá ek's music. Later, Yorinks and Sendak, who called each other Presto and Zesto, respectively, arranged the images and extemporized a connecting narrative featuring themselves searching for dessert and entering a strange realm. To escape, they must wrangle a present—bagpipes—from a devilish monster for the nuptials of two sugar beets, a lovely concluding scene with echoes of Caldecott. The narration combines nursery talk ("With a diddly-dee and a hippity-ho…") with kibitzing and kvetching: "Have you noticed…that you just can't get good cake anymore…?" The manuscript for this flight of fancy was forgotten until recently. Ridiculous situations, silly expressions, and discrepancy between text and image add wit: "…Presto and Zesto tippy-toed away and soon came upon a family thoroughly enjoying the fresh air." The page turn portrays an intimidating father chopping bread with an ax, a mother avoiding eye contact, and a boy pulling on a goat while eyeing another upside-down in the pond. The compositions are informed by Lada, but the style is unmistakable.
VERDICT Fresh Sendak art, a preposterous climax in which Presto's torn pants reveal his buttocks, and cake—what's not to like?

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