Review by Camryn Sharratt
What is there on the other side of a wall? Why do we fear it? In Derek Hughes’ retelling, Humpty Dumpty finds himself trapped in the rigid routines of white-collar work. Unsatisfied and unfulfilled, he builds a ladder to see beyond the wall. Nathan Christopher’s detailed illustrations layer the story, building suspense and establishing the melancholy emotion of the characters trapped in a capitalistic routine. When Chicken Little finds Humpty’s shell at the bottom of the wall the next morning, shattered, the rumor mill begins to spiral: Did he actually go over? What did he see? The other fairytale creatures who worked with Humpty wonder what there is to fear on the other side, or if there is anything to fear, at all.
Hughes and Christopher’s retelling invites audiences to consider why we fear what we don’t know, who is promoting this fear, and what gives them the authority to do so. Although the story takes place in a fictional world inhabited by various magical creatures, the prejudice against the “world beyond the wall” is a thinly veiled metaphor for xenophobic fears plaguing our social climate today. But are walls the solution? Hughes and Christopher encourage us to reevaluate our reservations about those who may be different, question those who tell us what to believe, and welcome what we don’t know. You’ll read this picture book once, set it down, and pick it up again and again and again.
Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall by Derek Hughes, illustrated by Nathan Christopher. Penguin Workshop, 2020, 49 pages.
Camryn is a graduate student at the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She spends her break working with dogs at a local doggy daycare, and is entirely in love with dogs.