In this illustrated retelling of the “Humpty Dumpty” nursery rhyme, the egg still falls, but does Humpty lose it all?
Humpty Dumpty lives near a wall and has “no fun at all,” nor do any of the creatures who inhabit this sharp, dark world brought to exquisite life by masterful black-and-white illustrations. The king in this gloomy world has forbidden his subjects—all well-known fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme characters, a clever, nuanced touch—to dream. But Humpty has a dream anyway: He wants to look over the wall. He builds a ladder in secret (“he couldn’t even tell his friend the Mad Hatter”), and one night, he props his ladder against the wall and climbs. The next day, an egg is found in pieces and the king declares the wall has won, sending out photos of the smashed egg. But in his haste to dampen any glimmers of hope his subjects might harbor, the king has neglected to look carefully at the eggshell, and what he misses sets his subjects free. Hughes’ rhyming text is simple, as befits its source, but its timely message is profound: Dreams cannot be stopped by a wall. Christopher’s sublimely detailed illustrations, the style of which, appropriately, harkens to Arthur Rackham, strengthen and expand the story indelibly, giving it visual excitement and atmospheric impact.
Wickedly, subversively brilliant. (Picture book. 6-10)