Maurice Sendak joins the ranks of Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss with a book discovered posthumously in a drawer

Still at it.
Still at it.
Image: AP Photo/Susan Ragan
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The man who spread monstrous, magical nighttime adventures to millions is about to embark on one of his own. Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, is going to publish a book from the grave.

The Maurice Sendak Foundation announced yesterday that a new story by the beloved American writer and illustrator, who died in 2012, will be released next fall. Presto and Zesto in Limboland was co-written by Sendak and writer and theater director Arthur Yorinks, and will be published by Michael di Capua Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

“It’s about two guys who are taking a walk and not realizing where they’re going, and they end up in Limboland,” says Yorinks, a longtime collaborator of Sendak. “It’s a book about friendship and dealing with a mixed up world.”

Presto and Zesto were nicknames that Sendak and Yorinks had for each other. The ten illustrations in the book were created first by Sendak in 1990, as accompaniment to an orchestra performance. Yorinks saw them and thought they should last beyond the one-time use. Together, the friends came up with a story to accompany the illustrations in one afternoon. They exchanged notes about Presto and Zesto after that, but both were too busy at the time with other projects to pursue it, says Yorinks.

The finished text and illustrations were found in Sendak’s files by Lynn Caponera, the Maurice Sendak Foundation president. Though she knew Sendak well, she hadn’t heard of the story, according to Publishers Weekly. She sent it to Sendak’s editor, and after getting in touch with Yorinks, they decided to publish the book.

For anyone clinging to departed children’s book legends, the story is familiar. In the last two years alone, lost stories by beloved deceased authors Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss have surfaced during file-rifling, going on to become bestsellers.

Yorinks is firm that this is not a hastily thrown together half-manuscript published without the author’s consent. “I knew Maurice for 40 years,” he says. “He would have absolutely been thrilled to have this published, absolutely no question about it.” He adds, “This isn’t some ersatz pieced-together thing; it’s a fully fledged book that just happened, due to various circumstances, to be stuck in a drawer.”