Lost book by Mau­rice Sen­dak dis­cov­ered

Chil­dren’s au­thor gained fame for 1963’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - TRAVIS M. AN­DREWS

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 Leoš Janáèek’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, both 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.


Mau­rice Sen­dak, in stu­dio, April 22, 1963. “Presto and Zesto in Lim­boland” was found last year.


Lynn Capon­era, the ex­ecu­tor of Mau­rice Sen­dak’s es­tate and pres­i­dent of his foun­da­tion, at the home of the beloved chil­dren’s au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor in Ridge­field, Conn.

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