Maurice Sendak is best known for his picture book Where the Wild Things Are, which for me was completely ruined when they came out with the disturbing movie version that had me cowering under my covers after I saw it. Granted, the book was rather creepy as well, but in a moderately lighthearted sort of way. Regardless, I much prefer In the Night Kitchen. This book captures Sendak’s iconic creepiness while still maintaining a profound level of laughter and cheerfulness.
The story is about Mickey, a young boy who wakes up in the night to a sound. He calls out “Quiet down!” and then falls “into the night kitchen” where the bakers consequently try to bake him into a “morning cake.” I don’t really know what a “morning cake” is (evidently we have them every morning; I would love to have cake every morning, but I certainly don’t), but just go with it. It’s great even if it doesn’t make much sense. The book was published in the 1970s after all.
For some reason, the chefs have mistaken Mickey for the milk. Yes, it’s true the story itself is a little strange (though wildly entertaining), but the real reason to read this book is for the illustrations.
I, of course, love anything to do with kitchens and food, and in this book, Sendak’s illustrations not only capture these things amazingly well, they are also full of whimsy and joy. Look at the jam jar buildings and the beater tower. The bottle skyscrapers, the cake box buildings, the coupons and salt and pepper shakers.
And the three fat chefs! How cute are they? I don’t think I would much mind taking a trip to the night kitchen. I’d prefer it any day to the world of the Wild Things, even if I almost did get baked into a cake.