Maurice Sendak tantalized the imaginations of decades of curious children with dozens of books, including his classic illustrated book “Where the Wild Things Are,” first published in 1963.
When the author and illustrator died in 2012, though, most thought the world had seen the last of his inimitable storytelling. Sendak fans can rejoice, then, because it turns out he had one more book, just waiting to be discovered.
According to Publishers Weekly, which broke the story, Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, was cleaning out the late author’s files in Connecticut last year and trying to “to see what could be discarded” when she found a typewritten manuscript with the title “Presto and Zesto in Limboland.”
Stunned by her discovery, Caponera scanned the manuscript and emailed it to Sendak’s longtime editor and publisher Michael di Capua. Could this be real?
“I read it in disbelief,” di Capua told PW. “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.”
Michael di Capua Books/HarperCollins plans to publish the book in 2018, according to PW.
Sendak wrote the book with Arthur Yorinks, a longtime collaborator with whom he also penned “The Miami Giant” and “Mommy?” as the Guardian reported.
The manuscript even came with illustrations which Sendak originally drew in 1990 to accompany a London Symphony Orchestra performance of Leos Janacek’s “Rikadla,” which sets to music surrealist and absurd Czech nursery rhymes, according to PW.
One of the images shows a young boy playing what appears to be a bagpipe while riding on a horse that is galloping over fire. Chasing him is a horned, bipedal monster with a forked devil’s tail. In the background, another young man stands in front of an enormous spider web upon which an enormous spider crawled. That boy’s bare buttocks are exposed through a torn tunic.
After he drew those illustrations, Yorinks and di Capua were saddened by the thought that they would never be seen again after the Long Symphony Orchestra performance, but they couldn’t think of anything to do with them.
“We talked about getting really good translations of the Czech verses but they were like Edward Lear squared,” di Capua told PW. “It just seemed hopeless, like trying to translate ‘Finnegan’s Wake,’ and Maurice had many other fish to fry.”
Years later, the images were again used — this time for a symphonic piece violinist Midori created to raise money for a foundation providing music education in New York City public schools.
This time, Yorinks refused to let them slip away.
So he and Sendak laid them out on a table and tried to think of a story. What transpired wasn’t a creative breakthrough but a goofy day of pure fun between two good friends. Which turned out to be exactly what was needed.
“It was a hysterical afternoon of cracking each other up,” Yorinks told PW. “But after a few hours a narrative thread began to coagulate. The story became an homage to our own friendship so we named the characters after ourselves – Presto and Zesto.”
The names themselves came from an inside joke between the two men, PW reported:
Though Yorinks had often visited Sendak at his home in Connecticut, “I only knew where he lived in relation to the train station.” So when Yorinks later moved to Connecticut himself, he called Sendak and said, “‘I think we’re close,’ but Maurice thought I was about a half hour drive away,” Yorinks recalled. “Then I got in the car and I was there in three minutes. When he opened the door he said, ‘Presto!’ That became my nickname.” Yorinks, in turn, dubbed Sendak “Zesto.”
So why wasn’t the manuscript discovered until now?
“In all honesty, we just forgot it,” Yorinks said.