CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 17. . . .January 4, 2013
Humpty Dumpty's Great Fall is part of a four-book series by Alan Durant in Crabtree’s “Tadpoles Nursery Crimes" series. In media information for the series, the publisher describes this book and others in the series as "twists" on original tales and suggests that young readers will recognize the characters that have been taken from familiar nursery rhymes but that are being used in different ways in these stories. What is puzzling about this approach is that the familiar character of Humpty Dumpty who, in his original nursery rhyme, is a benign if not tragic character (he sits on a wall, falls, and cannot be repaired) is unapologetically evil in this story. He throws a cat into a well, he scares away birds who want to play, and then laughs, and when a boy tries to climb up to his wall on a ladder, he pushes the ladder away with the boy still on it.
Children are accustomed to evil characters without explanation from fairy tales. I am uncertain that such a re-working of a nursery rhyme character in this way will make sense to young children, especially those who do not have a firm background in the original nursery rhymes referenced here, including Jack and Jill, I'm the King of the Castle, The Grand Old Duke of York, Hey Diddle Diddle, and Two Little Dicky Birds. Some of these references are obscure even to the adult reader.
The story ends with Humpty being destroyed when the Cow jumps over him instead of the moon and cracks him to bits. All of the Kings Men come to help him, but they don't try very hard because Humpty had been mean to them earlier. The King's Men scoop him up with the Spoon from Hey Diddle Diddle and serve him to the King as scrambled eggs.
Humpty Dumpty's Great Fall is a story that has an over-the-top negative vibe without a sufficient countering happy ending or positive character. The meanness of Humpty Dumpty certainly results in him getting his just desserts in the story, but the punishment seems to outweigh the crime.
I can appreciate author Durant referencing familiar nursery rhymes in a new story, but I wish that the story had more balance. Illustrations by Leah-Ellen Heming are colourful and provide accurate and creative accompaniment to the story.
Robert Groberman is a grade three teacher at Kirkbride Elementary School in Surrey, BC.
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