After the Fall: how Humpty Dumpty got back up again by Dan Santat. Unpgd. Roaring Brook Press, October, 2017. 9781250179371. (Review from purchased finished copy.)
I admire Dan Santat's art. He has illustrated quite a number of middle grade novel covers and the work of picture book authors with Oh No! by Mac Barnett being one of my favorites. He also re-illustrated Dav Pilkey's Ricky Ricotta series and wrote his own graphic novel, Sidekicks. This is his, I don't know, fourth solo picture book? Let's see, there was Beekle, Are We There Yet? and The Cookie Fiasco. I might be missing one. I loved Beekle and the fact that he wrote so beautifully about an imaginary friend. I got a big kick out of Are We There Yet? I thought he outdid himself with the outside-the-book thinking, visual humor and meditation on a long car ride. The Cookie Fiasco is hilarious fun. But, I think After the Fall is his best yet. Heartfelt and honest as well as having a healthy dose of outside-the-book thinking. When I first heard that he was retelling Humpty Dumpty, I thought he'd go for the goofy gags. This was a profound surprise.
The basic gist of the plot is Humpty Dumpty does indeed survive his fall. He IS put back together again but he's not the same. While "It was just an accident," his whole life is changed. He now has a fear of heights and getting hurt again. So he leaves Kings County Hospital (punny but also funny to those in the medical profession in the New York metro area) and returns home. But he sleeps on the floor because he's afraid to climb the ladder to his loft bed. In a brilliant double-page spread, Humpty chooses the blah cereal on a lower shelf instead of his favorite from the top shelf. The worst thing about avoiding the wall where it happened is that he misses birdwatching. Sure, he can see them from the street, but there was something about being on top of that wall...
This is a story of healing and it's beautifully told. Spare accessible prose will speak to all children, especially those suffering from anxiety. The art is captivating. Seriously, I could get lost in every spread. There's so much to see! Adorable little details like his dedication to his wife, Leah written as graffiti on Humpty's wall and incorporating her last name on a billboard in the final triumphant illustration. The end-pages are lovely as well. The publisher put a lot of care and thought into the design with an embossed wrap-around cover and pleasingly thick paper stock that will hold up to the multiple reading parents and librarians will be required (and want to) give this book.
Do not miss this gem. I expect to see it get something come YMA award time in