Stephanie Hallett
July 12, 2017 4:19 pm
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News about a recently rediscovered work by beloved children’s book author Maurice Sendak is sure to make you smile wide, and cry a few tears. The Where the Wild Things author and illustrator died in 2012 at age 83 after suffering a stroke, seemingly leaving behind only his canon of cherished titles. When his longtime friend, caregiver, and president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation was going through his files last year, though, she made a thrilling discovery.

“I was asking myself, ‘do we really need all these [files]’?” Lynn Caponera told Publisher’s Weekly. And that’s when she spotted a manuscript entitled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, a work co-written by Sendak and his friend and frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorinks. It seemed to be fully written and illustrated, so she sent it along to Sendak’s longtime editor, Michael di Capua.

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“I read it in disbelief,” di Capua told Publisher’s Weekly. “What a miracle to find this buried treasure in the archives. To think something as good as this has been lying around there gathering dust.”

Sendak had originally drawn the illustrations for a 1990 performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, but filed them away until years later when he offered them to another musician for a benefit concert. He and Yorinks decided to create a narrative around them, and in one afternoon, Presto and Zesto was born.

“It was a hysterical afternoon of cracking each other up,” Yorinks explained to Publisher’s Weekly. “But after a few hours a narrative thread began to coagulate. The story became an homage to our own friendship so we named the characters after ourselves—Presto and Zesto.”

Ah yes, that title. Here’s the backstory: Sendak and Yorinks were friends for years, and Yorinks often visited Sendak at his home in Connecticut, but only knew where he lived in relation to the local train station.

When Yorinks later moved to Connecticut he told Sendak that he lived nearby, but Sendak didn’t believe him. So Yorinks hopped in the car, arrived at Sendak’s home in three minutes, and shouted “Presto!” when Sendak opened the door. “Presto” quickly became Yorinks’ nickname, and he dubbed Sendak “Zesto” — and voila, the sweet title of the book.

Presto and Zesto is the third title from the creative pair, following The Miami Giant (1995) and Mommy? (2006).

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The book will be published by Michael di Capua Books/HarperCollins in fall 2018, and we know exactly what our friends of all ages will be getting for Christmas next year.

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