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Review of After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
by Dan Santat; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Roaring Brook    40 pp.
10/17    978-1-62672-682-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-19095-6    $9.99

If The Adventures of Beekle is a study of friendship and Are We There Yet? (rev. 3/16) an appeal for mindfulness, then Santat is now set on tackling fear — with Humpty Dumpty as his hapless protagonist. The familiar nursery rhyme (the wall, the fall, the put back together again) is summarized in a matter-of-fact first-person retelling on the opening endpapers and first few pages of the book. From there the story evolves into something new, for although all the king’s men were able to put Humpty back together, “there were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Humpty is now afraid of heights, and that’s a problem, since the wall was his favorite bird-watching spot. Settling for a “close enough” experience, the cautious Humpty decides to reconnect with his avian interests by launching a boldly beautiful paper-airplane bird, from the ground. But “accidents happen…they always do,” and the airplane gets stuck — on top of the wall. Terrified but determined, Humpty climbs the wall; and over the course of several thrilling page-turns reveals his true, triumphant self. Santat’s luminous illustrations bathe the urban cityscape and the ever-present steel patchwork wall in warm atmospheric light whose shifting intensity abets the drama, often dramatically blurring and overexposing large areas of the page. Bold horizontal, vertical, and diagonal compositions dominate most spreads, reinforcing the wall’s extraordinary height and, therefore, the challenge that Humpty must scale.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Patrick Gall

Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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