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After the fall : how Humpty Dumpty got back up again
2017
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Author Notes
Dan Santat is a Caldecott Medal-winning and New York Times bestselling author. Writer of many picturebooks, his first picturebook was The Guild of Geniuses. <p> (Bowker Author Biography)
Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
Fiction
Juvenile
Topics
Friendship
Courage
Fairy tales
Fear
Emotions
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

most picture books could just as well be shelved under self-help. If so many books for children tend toward the didactic (well, maybe not the ones about beasts consuming tacos), that may be because you're never too young to have problems. But if you're lucky, you'll have an adult who reads to you, an adult who knows that answers to all manner of problems can be found in books. The young protagonist of Shinsuke Yoshitake's "Still Stuck" isn't named and is indeed barely seen, his (though it could just as well be her) little face obscured by the T-shirt in which he finds himself trapped while undressing for a bath. It's a reiatable predicament, and his response is instructive: He learns to cope. Life won't be so bad inside his cotton confines; he can drink from a straw, and learn how to keep the cat from tickling his tummy. The story's moral is elusive - keep a stiff upper lip, look on the bright side or just hope mom will arrive, deus ex machina, to help you. Yoshitake's illustrations are so charming they obviate the need for an obvious lesson - my kids laughed throughout, though never harder than at the poor hero's bare bottom as mom bathes him. Each child is unique, but all children think butts are hilarious. As problems go, getting stuck in a shirt isn't so terrible. But childhood (adulthood, too, but don't tell the kids that) does involve a reckoning with fear. Dan Santat, whose "The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" won a Caldecott Medal, makes fear the subject of "After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)." So does the stupefyingly prolific Mo Willems, in "Sam, the Most ScaredyCat Kid in the Whole World," a sequel to his "Leonardo, the Terrible Monster." Willems plays it for laughs and does it well; any child familiar with the author-illustrator's oeuvre - and few, it seems, haven't yet met his Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, Gerald the elephant and his pal, a pig named Piggie - would expect no less. Sam, the titular character, is afraid of everything (spiders, a jack in the box, the daily paper) though not his friend Leonardo, who as a bona fide monster might be expected to instill fear. Boy and monster meet girl and monster - Kerry and her pal Frankenthaler. The monsters leave it up to the kids to stop screaming and figure out how not to be afraid of one another. They find a way. You'll forgive me for reading into it something deeper: Sam, a boy with pinkish skin, Kerry, a bespectacled brown girl, not just making peace but joining forces.I'm with Sam in that I fear most of these days' news cycles; what a pleasure to be reminded that people working together can vanquish fear. Willems works in a cartoony vernacular, while Santat's aesthetic is darker, near realist, so his Humpty Dumpty is an uncanny fellow, clearly an egg but one decked out in jeans and a skinny tie. The book's illustrations are suffused with fear - scary, in fact. Humpty is quite alone on most of the pages; the urban landscape in which he dwells is one of shadows, plus that looming wall from which he famously tumbles. As the subtitle promises, the story begins postfall, Humpty so afraid now of heights he can't sleep in his loft bed. I was so genuinely surprised by the book's conclusion that I won't spoil it. It's always gratifying to see how an artist can turn even the most familiar tale into something new. The heroines of Barbara McClintock's "The Five Forms" and Liz Garton Scanlon's "Another Way to Climb a Tree" are both adventurers, but even daring souls have their troubles. Scanlon's Lulu - drawn by Hadley Hooper in a beautiful throwback style - has never met a tree she didn't want to climb. So what to do when confined to her room on a sick day? McClintock's unnamed protagonist is similarly game for anything, certain she can master the forms of traditional Chinese martial arts. She ends up in over her head, her body's contortions conjuring an actual crane, leopard, snake and dragon who wreak havoc in her house. "Another Way to Climb a Tree" contains the ineffable thing that makes the picture book so special a form. Over repeat visits, the reader - of any age - will find and savor new details in Hooper's pictures. And the way that Lulu solves her problem and climbs a tree, illness or not, is quite magical. If story is less of interest in "The Five Forms," it hardly matters; There is something irresistible about McClintock's painterly illustrations, which are a departure from the beautiful realist style of her previous books (like last year's "Emma and Julia Love Ballet," an all-time favorite in my family). The new story has a comic strip's construction, and a young reader will naturally find joy in the utter destruction the forms of the title release, as well as in how sensibly the story's heroine deals with that mess. One problem all kids, and people who are no longer kids, can understand is the vicissitude of mood - the way human happiness is fleeting, sadness inevitable. It takes a special writer to grapple with this and still come up with an interesting book, and Lemony Snicket is a special writer. He writes with clarity as well as complexity, and can bounce from silly to serious quickly and easily. Snicket's wit is never at the expense of adult or child, and somehow accessible to both. Yes, Snicket has his shtick: ponderous character names, an air of the old-fashioned, unlikely plot twists. But these are deployed to winning effect in "The Bad Mood and the Stick," which is about a bad mood that is stuck to a girl named Curly, who picks up a stick that falls from a tree. The illustrator, Matthew Forsythe, isn't reinventing the wheel by depicting the bad mood as a cloud, but of course, that particular wheel is perfect as it is; it's remarkable, really, how with only a squiggly outline and a wash of color the artist creates so vivid an antihero. Self-help books (all sorts of books, come to think of it) can almost all be distilled down to one takeaway, a few words of wisdom. To explain the inexplicable (the fickleness of mood) Snicket tells us "You never know what is going to happen." This turn of phrase transcends being a simple moral - the closing coda of his odd story - to become something more like a mantra. Some of us are struggling with getting dressed, some yearning to climb a tree, some stuck with a bad mood, and the truest thing for all of us is that no matter what, we can't know what's coming. We've all got prob- are. If adults lems, no matter how old we can't step in and solve all of a child's troubles, we can at least give them that particular reassurance. You never know what's going to happen; life's joy is in seeing what comes next. RUMAAN alam is the author of "Rich and Pretty." His second novel, "That Kind of Mother," will be published next year.

  Publishers Weekly Review

What happened to Humpty Dumpty after his great fall? Santat's tale about facing fear imagines a long recovery. Humpty's lofty perch was his favorite: "I loved being close to the birds." But after his accident, he's scared of heights. Caldecott Medalist Santat (The Adventures of Beekle) paints him sleeping on the floor because his bunk bed is too high; sugary cereals on the topmost grocery shelf are sadly out of reach. The story is set in an otherworldly urban cityscape where billboards and telephone lines frame the spreads; emotional lows are underscored with dim shadows, while high moments are filled with warm, golden light. Humpty finds some consolation in making and flying paper airplanes, but when his plane sails over his wall, he resolves to scale it. Santat places viewers right behind Humpty during his moment of triumph, allowing them to share in it. When fear is conquered, we don't just endure the experience, Santat contends; we become new beings. More than a nursery rhyme remix, Santat's story speaks boldly to the grip of fear and trauma, and to the exhilaration of mastering it. Ages 4-8. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2-Humpty Dumpty, a spindly-limbed pale egg, copes with anxiety after his "Great Fall." Though his shell has mostly healed, a newfound fear of heights prevents him from enjoying his birdwatching, and even from choosing the delicious cereal on the top shelf at the store. But he still yearns for the skies, and Santat employs a variety of striking perspectives to help readers appreciate the enormity of Humpty's isolation and distance from his goal. Determined not to give up his favorite hobby, Humpty builds a model plane-Santat milks the humor of the frustrated, fastidious egg during a design sequence-that soars across the sky. When another, lesser accident occurs, Humpty must conquer his nerves or give up on flying. Santat's straightforward language throughout acknowledges the gravity of Humpty's fears without edging into melodrama; the short, declarative sentences that mark his anxious climb back onto the wall are rousing in their simplicity. (The backlit egg's triumphant posture doubles down on the text.) Many readers might have considered the ascent an adequate end, but Santat indulges in one more high note when the reformed shell cracks anew and releases an exultant bird. VERDICT Santat's precise illustrations and sensitive text combine for more emotional depth than the typical nursery rhyme remix. A terrific redemptive read-aloud for storytime and classroom sharing.-Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Thanks to modern medicine, Humpty does get put back together again. But he's a shell of his former self: the trauma leaves him afraid of heights, and so, unable to watch the birds from his old vantage. Searching for a rewarding alternative, he crafts a wonderful flying bird from paper that immediately gets stuck atop the very wall from which he fell. What to do? Santat depicts his rotund narrator with mobile, expressive features, and places him in a sparely detailed urban setting. Lighting and visual cues (including a truly heartbreaking view of grocery shelves on which the bright, enticing cereal packages are on high shelves and only drab brands like Flax and Sad Clown are in reach) communicate the depressed Dumpty's emotional landscape effectively. Ultimately, Humpty screws his courage to the sticking place and scales the wall. No sooner does he realize that his fear is gone than he starts to crack and, with an apotheosis that soars literally as well as figuratively, reminds us what eggs are for. The author gives wings to both his protagonist and his message about the importance of getting back up after a fall, and the realization that recovering from a trauma takes time.--Peters, John Copyright 2017 Booklist

  Horn Book Review

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 kings men were able to put Humpty back together, there were some parts that couldnt be healed with bandages and glue. Humpty is now afraid of heights, and thats 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 happenthey 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. Santats 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 walls extraordinary height and, therefore, the challenge that Humpty must scale. patrick gall (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Kirkus Review

Humpty Dumpty, classically portrayed as an egg, recounts what happened after he fell off the wall in Santat's latest. An avid ornithophile, Humpty had loved being atop a high wall to be close to the birds, but after his fall and reassembly by the king's men, high placeseven his lofted bedbecome intolerable. As he puts it, "There were some parts that couldn't be healed with bandages and glue." Although fear bars Humpty from many of his passions, it is the birds he misses the most, and he painstakingly builds (after several papercut-punctuated attempts) a beautiful paper plane to fly among them. But when the plane lands on the very wall Humpty has so doggedly been avoiding, he faces the choice of continuing to follow his fear or to break free of it, which he does, going from cracked egg to powerful flight in a sequence of stunning spreads. Santat applies his considerable talent for intertwining visual and textual, whimsy and gravity to his consideration of trauma and the oft-overlooked importance of self-determined recovery. While this newest addition to Santat's successes will inevitably (and deservedly) be lauded, younger readers may not notice the de-emphasis of an equally important part of recovery: that it is not compulsoryit is OK not to be OK. A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
<p>From the New York Times -bestselling creator of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend comes the inspiring epilogue to the beloved classic nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty.</p> <p>Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after ?</p> <p>Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat's poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall--that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most.</p> <p>Will he summon the courage to face his fear?</p> <p> After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) is a masterful picture book that will remind readers of all ages that Life begins when you get back up .</p>
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