Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? (and Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries) is nursery rhyme noir. Frog-faced cop Binky investigates five crimes, ranging from a housebreak by a blond, pigtailed dame to a suspicious queen judging a beauty pageant. Not to mention, of course, the sad case of much-loved band member Humpty Dumpty, fallen to pieces but leaving surprisingly little yolk on the ground.
As a long-time reader of adult mysteries, I love the hardboiled tone to this book. David Levinthal channeling Raymond Chandler. Like this:
"I'd heard that story before. It could only be one dame: Goldilocks! I nabbed her trying to make her getaway."
"I took him downtown for some questions. It wasn't long before he confessed. He knew his bacon was cooked."
The latter is particularly apt, as the suspect is actually a pig.
Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? is text dense. That and the relatively mature content make this a picture book for slightly older readers. While it is perhaps not strictly necessary to know the original fairy tales on which Levinthal's versions are based, this context certainly makes the book funnier. And, of course, the average three-year-old may not be ready to read about attempted murder and the like (depends on how many Disney movies they've seen, I guess).
John Nickle's illustrations add to the fun of Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? He uses deep tones to add to the noir feel, but also adds plenty of humor. Officer Binky, as a frog, is appropriately small, which makes the image of him driving a police car, while barely reaching the steering wheel, inherently funny. At the end of the case of Hansel and Gretel, we see a smiling bear with utterly rotten teeth standing in front of a mostly demolished candy house. And so on. The pictures that show action from the past (someone's story) are rendered in sepia, clearly separating them from the main action.
Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? is certainly not for everyone. The whole concept, not to mention the noir details, is going to go completely over the head of younger kids. But for slightly older kids, and their parents, particularly those who enjoy mysteries, Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? is a lot of fun.
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).