Jennie is a Sealyham terrier who has everything. "...a round pillow upstairs and a square pillow downstairs...her own comb and brush, two different bottles of pills, eyedrops, eardrops, a thermometer, and for cold weather a red wool sweater. There were two windows for her to look out of and two bowls to eat from. She even had a master who loved her."
But as is so often the case--in real life almost as often as in fairy tales--everything just isn't enough for Jennie. And so, clutching her black leather bag with gold buckles, she sets off one morning in search of that elusive something more.
Along the way Jennie meets a pig offering free sandwiches and the chance to become the leading lady for the World Mother Goose Theater..if she gains some experience before the full moon. Leading lady being a title that appeals to a little dog as bossy and spoiled as Jennie, she now has a goal. Kind of a quest, actually.
Along the way Jennie meets all sorts of interesting people who help propel her onward, and in the end she proves herself to be a very brave little dog and gets the job.
Like all the best fairy tales Higglety Pigglety Pop! has a certain surreal quality to it. In addition to the talking animals (and plants!), there's Baby, who won't eat, whose name nobody remembers. Jennie's story also has in common with classic fairy tales a layer of foreboding that sits just beneath the surface; Baby's parents left for the Castle Yonder and never returned and there's a Lion in the cellar who eats the Nurses who can't get Baby to eat. But the ending is joyous and the foreboding is forestalled. Maurice Sendak's humor and the sly lessons he sneaks in are in abundance, and his obvious adoration of his subject shines through in every one of his exquisite illustrations. As with all of the best children's literature this one will be savored as much by adults as by the children in their lives.