When I read Higglety Pigglety Pop! I feel like I am in a lovely dream that makes perfect sense in the midst of it. But when I wake up, or in this case finish reading, I am hard pressed to explain it to someone with any certainty.
Maybe not the best way to start a book review…but I will give it a try.
Maurice Sendak wrote the book after the death of his beloved dog, Jennie, which sheds some light on the meaning of the story. I think ultimately Higglety Pigglety Pop! is about the notion of 'having it all' and realizing that all of our material things are just that, material – and they are breakable and fleeting. It is the experiences in our lives, the hard-fought moments, that make our lives less 'discontent' as the main character, Jennie, laments.
I love the way I feel when I read this book and I love the delight in my kids eyes and the twinkle of a smile that comes and goes as they listen. I’ve read this to my four and a half year old and I would say that he is on the young side to truly enjoy it. Six seems to be the perfect age and my now 8 year old enjoys reading it on her own. The book is 69 pages (so typically a multi-night read for us) with gorgeous black and white sketches.
What I appreciate most I think is that the book is so truly comical, a rare find in a children's book – there is a line at the end:
“Every day I eat a mop, twice on Saturday. It is made of salami and that is my favorite.”
I mean, does it get any better than that?!? Can you see what I mean by dreamlike? Out of context, nonsense, even to me as I am typing. But before you turn the page that line is perfectly clear, and laugh-out-loud funny.
Why am I even mentioning this on a food blog? Good question. The food references (of which there are MANY) are so nostalgic and mouth-watering. As a whole, they are almost a character in and of themselves.
The dog in the book, Jennie, is searching for ‘experience’ because she is, as mentioned earlier, ‘discontented.’ Even though to the plant she is discussing this with at the start of the book, it appears she has everything. The conversation continues with the plant about all of Jennie’s possessions (her thermometer, pillows, and not one – but two – windows to look out of) until of course Jennie eats all of the plant’s leaves and the plant can no longer talk. (Please see: above reference to dream).
Jennie departs on a search and ultimately finds a worthy experience: to be a nurse to Baby and get her to eat lest Jennie be eaten by the lion downstairs. Along the way, our hero Jennie herself eats just about everything she sees. Here is a partial list – and dare I say a menu plan for the coming week?
Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on pumpernickel
Anchovy, tomato and egg on toast
Liverwurst and onion on white bread
Turkey, bacon and mayonnaise (lettuce picked out)
Salami sandwich (a foreshadow to the salami mop)
Buttermilk pancakes with syrup
Vanilla pudding (which Jennie dislikes)
Is that not the best? I actually put liverwurst on my grocery list every time I read this book.
Please find this book, read it, make some sandwiches, and tell me what you think it means!!