Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall

Penguin. Jan. 2020. 48p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781524793029.
Gr 5 Up–We all know about his fall. But why was Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall? And how did he get up there? To answer these questions, Hughes creates an eerie political tale told in poetic lines. The humanized egg figure lived near a wall and “had no fun at all.” In densely packed black-and-white drawings, Christopher provides dark, sometimes macabre, views of the crowd of familiar legendary figures and imaginative beings, some tiny and others gigantic, under the rule of the tyrannical king who “had forbidden his empire to dream,” and kept everyone working. Tiny details line the street that’s in the wall’s shadow and the interior spaces where Humpty Dumpty works, lives, and makes plans for the future. Spiky, thorned vines twist around the formal frames of some pictures or text blocks. The busy bits fall away for a few pages as Humpty Dumpty climbs his ladder in the night to fulfill his ambition of looking over the wall. An enormous, mangy rooster greets the broken bits of ladder as morning breaks. While the king proclaims that the wall has won, the townsfolk find another sort of message in that pile of broken eggshells. The economical text and rich scenes are an evocative blend of humor and melancholy.
VERDICT This is not a nursery rhyme and it will be confusing for most picture book readers. Offer this title to teachers who would like to incorporate visual literacy and discussion into reading classes.

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