So I realize I dropped off in the countdown to Christmas… BUT, in actuality, this wasn’t a countdown to Christmas, it was fully intended as 25 Days of Favorite New Picture Books all hopefully helpful in the season of giving. But the season of giving books is never truly over! I made the hard decision to stop posting the last four when family arrived in NYC to celebrate Christmas with us. People come first and I wanted and needed to be with my family. But, I still have four amazing books to share… and we have four days left in 2018. So come back and join me in seeing my favorite picture books of 2018 (and a few 2017 that I’m still obsessing over too!)

Today’s book is one more favorite from 2017. A stunningly beautiful book about dreams, disappointment and overcoming fear. This book will inspire and move you. Take a look at After the Fall by Dan Santat, 2017.

What is it about?

This is a story of Humpty Dumpty; but the heart of the story that you’ve never heard before. Humpty Dumpty loves to sit high on a wall and watch the birds. Then he fell. It was the accident that changed his life, and defined him. His fear of another accident keep him away from the things he loves, and most of all – away from the wall and the birds.

Then Humpty gets an idea. He works tirelessly – in the most honest portrayal of the creative process I’ve ever seen – and he creates a beautiful paper bird plane. It wasn’t the same as being high up himself, but it was something. And then, as it always does, disaster strikes again. The plane lands on the top of the wall. This time, Humpty refuses to give up. He faces his fear, climbs the wall and is confronted with a new reality about fear, control, bravery, and who he really is.

Why I picked it

I fear my recap of the plot does not do this book justice. I have never read through to the end of this book without getting literal chills and just wanting to weep. I have choked up many times in fact. The deeply poetic editing of the text packs a powerful punch. The text is beautiful and spare, hitting all the right notes. And it perfectly leaves space for the illustrations to capitalize on the emotions in between narration – the elation, pain, humor, frustration, terror, elation, and pure joy – every expression of this egg are masterfully captured in the immensely beautiful and detailed digital illustrations.

Dan Santat is one of very few digital illustrators that I deeply admire and swoon over every one of his books. He is an incredible story-creator. He knows how to lay it out, pull in the reader, pummel with emotions, and wreck your heart and mind with beautiful stories in a transforming way. I have loved this book since it debuted, and it took on new meaning for me this fall when I struggled with odd bouts of anxiety myself. This book (and Sanna’s newest which I posted about a few days ago) were major comforts and inspirations for me as I waded through new feelings.

The other reason I picked this book is that I adore the backstory for why Santat created it – for his wife, Lisa. There are several beautiful interviews with him detailing the story behind the story and his immense love for his wife, all worth listening to. I also heard him speak in person at an SCBWI event, which was emotional, fantastic, and challenging; but I highly recommend listening to this interview with Matthew Winner if you need a good cry.

Who will love this?

I don’t think I need to answer this really. This book is most definitely for adults, in every possible and inspiring way. And of course it is for children. Children who need to hear the message of overcoming fear, being brave, and realizing things you never knew about yourself. It is a fantastic, stunning, breathtakingly beautiful story to be treasured by anyone and everyone.

Bonus Gift Pairings

Francesca Sanna’s new book about fear is a great book pairing with this one. I also envision a cracked egg gift of some sort being a thoughtful remembrance of the bravery and self-realization that occurs in this book. Something like this Humpty ornament that could hang anywhere you need to see it daily. Or this adorable crocheted plush Humpty!

Three more books to share! See you tomorrow for the next book from this year in my 25 Days of Favorite New Picture Books countdown!