There’s a birthday coming for Bumble-Ardy the pig (recently adopted by his aunt Adeline after the tragic consumption of his parents), who’s turning nine, and who enjoys a genteel celebration with his aunt. Later, though, Bumble invites a pack of swine to party down at a birthday masquerade (“No mud wallowing!”), and the [End Page 109] costumed crowd, arriving while Aunt Adeline is at work, breaks into her brine and rocks the rafters—until Auntie’s outraged return and Bumble’s exile to his room. The story unfolds in conversational rhyming lines that eschew structure for absurdity, returning repeatedly to “nine” and its rhymes until the rhyme words are almost a punchline in their own right; additional text comes from the speech balloons and labeling in the illustrations, which expand and inform the main text. The party gone wild is a kid-appealing notion, and the turns of phrase (“His immediate family gorged and gained weight./ And got ate”) are lilting and funny, with the folkloric edge of nursery rhymes. The story itself is less successful, though, with the events overshadowed by the rhyme and the plot turns logically fuzzy, with Adeline going from enraged (eliciting a slightly alarming promise from Bumble that he “won’t ever turn ten”) to cuddly and forgiving with the irrational speed of a mood disorder. The illustrations are a world unto themselves, filled with eccentric detail even before the party bedlam breaks out, and the exquisitely individual draftsmanship and softly grainy pencil shading and modeling are a testament to Sendak’s legendary skill. The party itself builds and explodes in a sequence of textless spreads à la Wild Things, and the crammed chaos has a genuinely creepy edge, with pigs piloting colorful blank-eyed human costumes in a Fellini-esque porcine pantomime set firmly in the uncanny valley. Fascinating as the pageantry is, it doesn’t fit in with the pacing all that effectively and stops the plot rather than sending it soaring silently. A party gone over the top is hard to resist, though, and even kids whose thoughts go straight to bacon will pore over the amusing yet haunting pig masquerade.