“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
So, what really happened to Humpty after his fall?
“After the Fall” by Dan Santat tells the story. It is one of the most innovative children’s picture books ever. Humpty is ‘mended’… but not really.
This is the beginning of the story, and children are immediately captivated. Is it because of Humpty Dumpty? No. He is a character they know, yet it’s the words and illustrations on this page that make children think, “I feel that way sometimes.”
See that ladder? It is throughout the book; ‘there’ and an obstacle in many everyday things he wants to do.
As the book goes on, Humpty cannot climb up. The ladder to his wall is looming. He just can’t do it, and he misses out on many things, like being high above the city and watching the birds. He loves the birds.
An idea flew by. If he can’t be up there with the birds, he can make his own. And so Humpty puts all his energy into making a paper plane bird.
This is where children begin to cheer Humpty. He has survived a fall, realized that he cannot climb a ladder, and tries to do something else to make himself happy. Humpty is moving forward. But the worst is yet to happen. He perfects his paper plane bird. It is marvelous. One day it lands on top of the wall – his wall.
I stop reading and let children look at this powerful illustration. We talk. Oh, how we talk. The floodgates of all that has happened to Humpty open their doors. Children need to talk about being scared and worried, and messing up. They understand Humpty. More importantly, they are relieved they’re not alone.
What does Humpty do? His beloved paper plane bird has landed on top of the wall – his wall. He decides to climb that ladder. This is the bravest thing he has ever done, and Humpty is terrified.
Humpty makes it to the top. “Until I was no longer afraid” are his words. We stop and take a deep breath. Whew! The conversations flow. Being afraid is one thing, overcoming that fear is another. Humpty Dumpty is an egg. Eggs hatch, and Humpty hatched after he overcame his fear and climbed that ladder.
A most important life lesson is in this book. Resiliency. Children need good stories and role models to help them develop this skill. Humpty Dumpty is a role model. “After the Fall” is an outstanding book.