From School Library Journal
Grade 2 Up-Sendak is back, bolder than ever, as he looks out to the problems of today's world. He combines two little-known and unrelated nursery rhymes, taking advantage of their absence of story to interpret them with a wealth of detail and social commentary. In so doing, his visual images invite readers to become co-conspirators in the creation of the tale. From the dust jacket's ragged and newspaper-wrapped children, depicted within a monstrous mouth that readers will discover is the moon, to the very last page, one must search for clues to bring meaning to the enigmatic text. (Most are in the form of newspaper headlines). The homeless children and kittens are watched over by the moon, which seems to insist that the youngsters take care of one another. The moon itself is transformed into a giant cat to save the kittens and a baby from the rats who steal them. Unlike Max from Where the Wild Things Are (HarperCollins, 1988), however, their return is not to safety and a warm supper, but to the uncertainties of the street. Overall, the images refer to poverty, war, crime, pollution, famine, inflation, AIDS, unemployment, and other current evils. The illustrations themselves are not frightening, but they remind readers of horrific things in the real world. The somewhat muted and subdued palette is brightened with bursts of red sky and a stark white cat, which give an explosive energy to the story. The clarity of the art and of the composition of the pages are deceptively simple. The rhythms of the street, of rap music, are recognizable in the interplay between the rhymes and characters' ballooned comments. This is a potent, evocative book, but Sendak respects children's ability to deal with powerful and potentially controversial issues and ideas. We Are All in the Dumps will lead to discussion, speculation, and a variety of interpretations, all of which are appropriate for this type of allegory. This headline says it all: "Leaner Times, Meaner Times...Children Triumph."-Kay E. Vandergrift, School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Harking back to Hector Protector (1965), Sendak again pairs two nursery rhymes; but this time, he penetrates deeply into society's ills in his elaborate visual extension of the words. ``We are all in the dumps/For diamonds are trumps/The kittens are gone to St. Paul's/The baby is bit/The moon's in a fit/And the houses are built without walls.'' Sendak sets this first rhyme in New York, where homeless children are watched over by an increasingly agitated moon and where two wicked rats build a house of cards, play for the ``poor little kid'' (an appealing waif), and haul him, as well as the kittens, off to ``St. Paul's Bakery and Orphanage''--which resembles Auschwitz (glimpsed more subtly in Dear Mili). In the second part, Jack and Guy, who have earlier ignored the waif's pleas for help, follow after: ``Come says Jack/Let's knock him on the head/No says Guy/Let's buy him some bread...'' There's much more going on in the extraordinary art, including allusions visual (Trump Tower, a Cheshire cat moon that maternally enfolds the kittens) and verbal (in dialogue balloons and newsprint that also serves as shelter). Dear Mili's exquisitely detailed paintings give way here to the freely drawn, more immediate style of I Saw Esau (1992); but the subtle orchestration of Sendak's ideas has never been more intricate, telling, or playful. Adults may question presenting serious topics to children in this imaginative form. Lucky children have seen homelessness, and worse, only on TV; the unlucky have lived it. In this beautiful, passionately concerned book, Sendak creates visual poetry, rich in symbolism, that goes to the heart of such matters better than any earnest description. Once again, he explores new ground and offers a masterpiece. (Picture book. 4+) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.