Friday, February 1, 2019

AFTER THE FALL: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again

By Dan Santat

Roaring Brook Press (2017)

In After the Fall, Dan Santat takes classic nursery rhyme character Humpty Dumpty and imagines that all the king’s men managed to put him back together again. Give or take a few bits and pieces.
In truth, poor Humpty, who loved sitting atop walls—to be closer to the birds—is a little broken. There’s a heartbreaking image of the bandaged egg sleeping on the floor in his room. Seems he’s too scared to climb the ladder to his bunk. Moreover, he dares not reach for the upper shelves in grocery stores where the truly tasty cereals like Just Marshmallow and Sugar Elf are stocked. Sadly, that leaves him to the bland brands on the lowest shelf—cereals with names like Fiber Flakes and Grown-Up Food. (Poor Humpty, indeed!)
Santat’s lovely, whimsical illustrations are cast in darker, muted colors with a range of perspectives from over-the-shoulder shots to aerial views. Every page invites the viewer to pause and study the images.
In time, Humpty Dumpty makes do, making paper airplanes. If he can’t reach higher altitudes, at least his creations can. And then one day, dear Humpty must face his fears. Something precious forces him to consider ascending a ladder and being atop the fateful wall once more. Can he do it? And will nursery rhyme history repeat itself?
This is a wonderfully endearing tale of resilience with a surprise ending that makes the reader want to immediately reread the story now that he is in on some nuances of the story that should have been (but weren’t) obvious. By golly, Santat manages to shed light on both the classic story and his reworked sequel of sorts. The result is absolutely delightful!

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