"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Humpty Dumpty was pushed."
Narrator and detective, Joe Dumpty, a rotund egg clad in a brown trench coat and fedora, is also Humpty's younger brother. Joe believes it's no accident that Humpty, a good egg, fell off the Wall. In fact, he thinks it's a crime. After Miss Muffett calls Joe at the office to tell him the news, he races over the Wall, where Humpty had been patrolling as captain of the new Neighborhood Watch program. When he sees his brother lying on the ground, his shell all broken, and the egg whites bleeding onto the grass, Joe thinks, "Whoever did this was gonna fry!" (Little Miss Muffet observes, in balloon dialogue, "At least he landed sunny-side up.") The Police Chief, Mother Goose, believes it was just an accident and that there's no case to crack, but she gives Joe until five o'clock to play detective.
In the best tradition of hard-boiled mystery-writing immortals, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Joe stays on the case, eliciting confessions and denials of witnesses and possible suspects. The pun-filled text with its brightly colored pen and ink and watercolors, showcases more than a dozen familiar faces from beloved fairy tales and nursery rhymes, including Old Mother Hubbard, an unidentified blonde in the Bears' house, Chicken Little, the three Pigs, and, you bet, the Big Bad Wolf. Not surprisingly, Detective Dumpty gets to the bottom of the case, and the two perpetrators are led off to jail.
For another tough-talking detective story peopled with nursery rhyme characters, read Margie Palatini's Dragnet-inspired barnyard mystery, The Web Files, and then consider the Big Bad Wolf's side of the story in Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. Crack open another explanation for Humpty Dumpty's great fall in Dimity Dumpty: The Story of Humpty's Little Sister by Bob Graham.
Reviewed by JF.
THEMES: HUMOR. MYSTERY & DETECTIVE STORIES. FAIRY TALES.
Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009
Suggested Ages: 5-8