Humpty Dumpty Sat On a Wall…

Working with children is the best job in the world! Their brains are growing as their minds are trying to figure the world out. I am constantly amazed by the observations, assumptions, and problem solving that children make when I am reading them stories.

My cousin Ella, who recently turned four, regularly attends storytime in her hometown. At our latest family party, she asked me if I knew Humpty. (Children assume that all fairytale and book characters are my close and personal friends. Most of them also think I live in the children’s room and ask where I hide my bed.) When I said, “I do,” she said, “I’m really worried about him.”

Her eyes were as big as saucers; her face was very serious. I asked why, and she said, “Do you think the king’s horses and men will be able to put him together again?”

I had to think hard about this before I responded. “Hmm…how would you put Humpty together again?” I asked Ella.

“Oh, that’s easy! I would use glue and a paintbrush and put all the pieces together. Then I’d give him a bath and he’d be good as new!” she beamed.

“Well, I think that’s what the king’s horses and men did,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “Well, what about Jack?”

“Which Jack?” I asked. She could have been asking about a friend from the library or from preschool.

“You know Jack. Jack and Jill who broke his crown,” she said, as if no other Jack existed in the world.

Her inquisition continued through appetizers, dinner and dessert as I wove stories about Goldilocks, the Three Little Pigs, and the various Jacks. Before I left, I had to promise to e-mail her mom a list of books that she could find in her library about her fairytale friends.

I compiled my list (which I will share with you below) and planned an after-school program (uniquely named the Fractured Fairy Tales Club) around this idea. This also made me remember how much I love fractured fairy tales, even as an adult! I hope this list helps you find your kid at heart, or inspires you to share with a young person in your life:

There is quite a variety out there to answer Ella’s inquiries about Humpty Dumpty. Humpty’s older brother, Joe, becomes a detective in What Really Happened to Humpty? by Jeanie Franz Ranson (JP-ILLUS RAN). He investigates Humpty’s demise in Mother Gooseland and suspects Big Bad Wolf of the crime. Humpty’s sister is the star of Dimity Dumpty: The Story of Humpty’s Little Sister by Bob Graham (JP GRA). She narrates their life as circus performers. If you’re looking for a happy Humpty ending, Humpty Dumpty After the Fall by Charles Reasoner (J REA BOARD) is the way to go. Humpty dances, jumps and plays on the wall.

The characters from “Hey, Diddle Diddle” have lives outside their nursery rhyme. The cow’s struggle to become a high jumper is cataloged in Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon by Gennifer Choldenko (JP CHO). In The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey (JP GRE), the dish and spoon become filled with greed from their earnings on broadway and set out on their separate ways.

A variety of fractured fairy tales are available in OWL’s collection. A few of my favorites include the dually narrated Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O’Malley (J 398.2 OMA). A girl and a boy weave a tale about a beautiful princess and a cool motorcycle dude. They each create an ending where the pony, Buttercup, is saved from the evil giant troll. This will keep you rolling as the dude learns to weave gold thread and the princess pumps iron and becomes a warrior.

The End by David LaRochelle (JP LAR) begins at the end of the story and ends at the beginning. This tackles the use of cause-and-effect while providing a really funny story that will keep you laughing out loud!

A perfect tale that involves all the characters in the fairytale realm is Previously by Allan Ahlberg (JP AHL). You find out what the characters were doing before their famous nursery rhyme. For instance, before Prince was turned into a frog and before falling in love with Cinderella, he had been driving around in his Mercedes and eating his meals from gold plates.

The illustrator can’t keep up with the storyteller in An Undone Fairy Tale by Ian Lendler (JP LEN). Many of the pages have half of the illustrations finished, leaving the details to be left of the imagination of the reader.

Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who is rereading Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series.

3 thoughts on “Humpty Dumpty Sat On a Wall…

  1. Interesting that many fairy tales have some fairly dire events within them. Far from proposing idealized fantasy world, they teach much about life. Great blog!

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