Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must be More to Life

by Maurice Sendak

New York: Harper Collins, 1967

69 pp.

Age: 4 +

Interests: dogs, adventure, theatre

A dog named Jennie has everything – two pillows to sleep on, two bowls to eat from, two windows to look out of, and an owner who loves her. But she’s not satisfied. Musing that “There must be more to life than having everything!”, she leaves a note and hits the road. After eating her way through a rambling sequence of events, seeking ‘experience’, she finds her purpose in life, as a leading lady in the World Mother Goose Theatre Company.

Author Selma Lanes calls this “a profound American fairy tale”. Indeed, it’s a strange little book from Maurice Sendak, with illustrations from the darker end of the spectrum. It’s got the vaguely threatening twilight feeling of traditional fairy tales, and unfolds like a dream. The main character wanders from adventure to adventure, abandoning the master who loves her and never going back. (Sending at the very end a rather cavalier note to inform him of her new career and fame.)  The story seems to be about pursuing the artistic life, eschewing everyday comforts to chase an elusive dream. However I can’t be sure. It’s the kind of story you read, and reach the end, and aren’t sure what the heck it was about at all. And that’s what I like about it.

At the end the meticulously rendered illustrations give way to a much simpler style, more familiar to Sendak fans, as he depicts the nursery rhyme play the troupe finally performs. It seems to be saying that behind every cheery, bright little book (or work of art), is the solitary, mysterious journey of the artist.

Sendak dedicated this book to his own beloved dog Jennie, who had just died.



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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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