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In The Night Kitchen

A children's book by Maurice Sendak.

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When Thinking "Nothing's the Matter" Is Necessary to Live

  • Aug 10, 2009
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“Milk in the Batter! Milk in the Batter! We Bake Cake! And Nothing’s the Matter!" That’s the refrain of In the Night Kitchen, one of two children’s books that Yann Martel (author of The Life of Pi) sent last week to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The other one is Where the Wild Things Are, also by Maurice Sendak.

The occasion is the 61st in Martel’s continuing campaign to provide Harper with some good bedtime reading, and, not incidentally, the birth of the first child of Martel and his partner Alice Kuipers.  Martel started sending books every two weeks to Harper more than two years ago when the PM  appeared disraught during a ceremony that Martel was involved in.  The campaign has elicited only a couple of acknowledgements from Harper's office, but much comment elsewhere about Martel's pointed cover letters in which he takes Harper and his Conservative government to task.

The books Martel has just sent  are children’s classics, and I’d be surprised if the Harper household didn’t have them at one time, if they don’t still. Nevertheless, the books are an opportunity for Martel to muse about the importance of books to children. An adult whose imagination has not been stimulated in childhood is “less useful to society because incapable of coming up with the new ideas and new solutions that society needs. A skill is a narrow focus of knowledge, a single card in a deck. Creativity is the hand that plays the cards. Hence, once again, the importance of children’s literature.”

Very true. There’s also an important message in the silliness of the “Milk in the Batter” refrain. Small children also need to think that no matter how scary the moment is, everything will turn out all right.

That is clearly not true, of course. Horrible things happen, cement blocks fall from tall buildings, wars break out, crops fail. Children will learn that soon enough, but like all of us, they need to believe on one level that “nothing’s the matter” in order to go to sleep, to try new things, to love, to live.

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August 11, 2009
That's interesting that Yann Martel has been sending books to the PM of Canada, especially this one!  Maurice Sendak's books will always have a special place in my heart as Where the Wild Things Are and Chicken Soup with Rice were read to me quite a bit when I was a child.  I love how you point out that despite the silliness of his books, there's still an important message.  So true! :)
August 10, 2009
Thanks for the great review Mary! I've got to agree that childhood is not the time to teach children that the world is a scary and often depressing place. They'll learn that eventually. It is great to focus on the good, the beautiful, and all the happy moments of life! I think this would be a great bedtime story for my little daughter after a day making Homemade Bread! Thanks again :)
More In the Night Kitchen reviews
review by . April 29, 2010
   "In the Night Kitchen" is one of Maurice Sendak's most magical and surreal book since "Where the Wild Things Are." "In the Night Kitchen" is basically about a young boy named Mickey who goes on an adventure to the Night Kitchen and meets three bakers who tried to bake him into a cake.       "In the Night Kitchen" was one of the most controversial books to ever come into the world of children's books because of the images of …
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
wonderful illustrations, just a good fun read for parents and kids.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
Lovely book.
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Another favorite by Maurice Sendak. Love the Illustrations!
Quick Tip by . June 05, 2010
A terrific children's book with a wonderfully eccentric sense of humor and perhaps slightly anarchic as well. What one would expect from maurice Sendak.
Quick Tip by . June 05, 2010
This is just a great original(to the best of my knowledge) children's story. Some people tried to ban this book. It should not be suggested that it needs to be banned.
Quick Tip by . May 18, 2010
A true classic!
Quick Tip by . April 29, 2010
Maurice Sendak's most surreal book yet!
About the reviewer

Ranked #91
Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more
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About this book


The American Library Association ranks In the Night Kitchen twenty-first on its list of "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999.

  • 1971 Caldecott Honor Book
  • Notable Children's Books of 1940--1970 (ALA)
  • Best Books of 1970 (SLJ)
  • Outstanding Children's Books of 1970 (NYT)
  • Best Illustrated Children's Books of 1970 (NYT)
  • Children's Books of 1970 (Library of Congress)
  • Carey-Thomas Award 1971--Honor Citation
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ISBN-10: 0060266686 (hbk. Anv. ed.)
ISBN-13: 9780060266684 (hbk. Anv. ed.)
Author: Maurice Sendak
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date Published: 1970; January 18, 1996 (Anv. ed.):
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