STARRED REVIEW
October 2017

Putting himself back together

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In this contemporary and sensitive twist on the classic “Humpty Dumpty” rhyme, Dan Santat offers a story about persistence in the face of anxiety.

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In this contemporary and sensitive twist on the classic “Humpty Dumpty” rhyme, Dan Santat offers a story about persistence in the face of anxiety.

On the title-page spread, we see delicate Humpty midfall. He loves to watch birds but has taken an inadvertent dive from his favorite bird-watching spot. “It was just an accident,” he tells us. “But it changed my life.” The fall, despite being put back together again at Kings County Hospital, leaves him anxious and afraid of heights. He misses his favorite pastime and misses the birds, but worry and apprehension debilitate him.

His solution is to build a bird out of paper. When his soaring creation gets stuck atop the wall, Humpty decides to climb it once again. His triumphant arrival at the top is encouraging and altogether heartening, as Humpty tells us that perhaps now we won’t think of him as “that egg who was famous for falling.” But in an unexpected twist, Santat wraps up the story with an exuberant surprise, a moment of exhilarating freedom.

In this tale about resilience in the face of adversity and refusing to let worry get in the way of life, Santat avoids heavy-handedness and communicates a lot with color, light and perspective. The final two spreads showing Humpty’s liberation are breathtaking.

A good egg. A very good egg.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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