Author: Dan Santat
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Audience: 4-8 years
Summary: Humpty Dumpty, a dapperly dressed egg, was, contrary to the rhyme, put together again by the king’s men. There were, however, some things that couldn’t be mended. Before the fall he enjoyed heights, the top of the wall and being near birds. After the fall, he was afraid of the wall and heights. He observed sadly from the ground until one day he decided to make a paper airplane. It took perseverance, hard work, a little suffering but he soon had an airplane that flew to the top of the wall. To reach the plane, Humpty had to climb the wall, step by step, looking neither up nor down. He conquered his fear, reached the top, and …flew.
Literary elements at work in the story: Dan Santat, the 2015 Caldecott Award winner, invests an egg with an amazing amount of character and personality and creates a visual environment where height dominates almost every page. Illustrations require as much reading as text. Humpty is limited to the cereals on the lowest shelves in the grocery, colorless Flax flakes, Fiber, Sad Clowns, Chia, while on the top shelves are colorful Corn Blast, Choco Duck, Pirate Crunch. Could there be a better illustration of the limiting power of fear? The last two pages are confusing, for a child could conclude that the paper bird knocked the egg off the wall, that the cracks and flying eggshell represent another accident rather than the freedom to fly.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Not applicable.
Theological Conversation Partners: Fear can have at least two meanings in the Bible: awe and reverence such as when we fear God or a feeling of apprehension and dread because something bad may happen. Because “fear of the Lord” is such a common biblical phrase, children may need help with this distinction. Every person, child or adult, has fears, feels fears. After the Fall provides an opportunity to name these and address them. And Humpty Dumpty offers some clues about how to face our fears-recognize them, see how they limit us, address them, proceed step by step to overcome them. Biblically, however, fear is not the opposite of no fear or confidence; it is the absence of trust in God. And for a disciple of Christ there is a connection between facing the fears in our daily life and trust in God. There are many reasons to fear in contemporary America and practical ways to be careful. The Bible is studied with admonishes to “fear not.” Childhood is a good time to claim some of these assurances: Ps. 27:1; Ps 56:9b-11; Isaiah 12:2; John 14:27; Matthew 10:29, 30.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What effect did the fall have on Humpty Dumpty? How was his life changed?
- What did he miss because he was afraid?
- How did he overcome his fear? How did building an airplane help?
- What do you fear? The dark, meeting strangers, taking a test, being alone, making a speech, failing at something new? Name some of your fears.
- What effect does fear-fear of anything-have on you?
- Are there some things that we need to fear? How can we do this wisely?
- Choose a Bible verse to help you when you are afraid: Ps. 27:1; Ps. 56:0b-22; Isaiah 12:2; John 14:27; Matthew 10:29-30
This review was written by regular contributor and Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Virginia Thomas.