In the Night Kitchen

July 3, 2018
Subheader: 

I wish I could eat cake every day.

Review: 

What a surreal book. A little boy named Mickey, in a very dreamlike sequence, falls through his bed and out of his clothes. For most of the book, he's naked. I don't mind personally, but apparently the visible genitalia has caused this book to be banned repeatedly. Anyway, three larger-than-the-average-human bakers (or maybe they're regular-sized and Mickey is a bit small?), "The bakers who bake till the dawn so we can have cake in the morn," are mixing cake. Mickey falls into their batter, and they mix it together and put him in the oven and he comes out as the cake is baking and says, "I'm not milk!" (Did they mistake him for milk? I'm not 100% sure what's up with that.) So he leaves the oven and falls into some bread dough and makes the dough into an airplane. The bakers, who all look like Oliver Hardy, demand milk, so he flies his plane up into a giant bottle of milk, dives in, gets some milk, and pours it into their batter and they're super happy. Then he goes back to bed. The last page is this image that looks almost like a "seal of approval," but the text around it says, "And that's why, thanks to Mickey, we have cake every morning." What?

I don't know what this book is supposed to mean. I don't know if there's some kind of message he's trying to impart with it. I've heard that Sendak himself, in his later years, claimed that it was some kind of allegory to the Holocaust (with the bakers having Hitler-esque mustaches and baking people in the oven), but that's a real stretch. For the most part, it just seems completely surreal. Because he's certainly happy at the end. He ends up back in his bed, "Cake-free and dried," it says. It's just almost like the kind of weird dream that I suppose a child would have who had been obsessed with the contents of the pantry (given the art style where all the buildings in the background look like various food and cleaning items), knew something about bakers, and a little bit about how cake is made. Is it supposed to be metaphorical for something? Maybe a child getting up in the night, going downstairs and getting lost in the pantry, and hallucinating?

Message: 

Cake is delicious.

Publication Year
  • 1973
Age Range
Age Range: 
4-8
Number of Pages
Number of Pages: 
35
Number of Words on Typical Page
Number of Words: 
10

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