Hard-Boiled Crime, Picture Book Style

BookendsMystery Month 2015Lynn: What REALLY happened to Humpty Dumpty? His brother, Joe Dumpty, thinks he was pushed off that wall!

I am sad to say that we missed What Really Happened to Humpty? (2009) by Jeanie Franz Ransom when it first came out. But after reading a new case report this spring, we scrambled to read the original. Joe rushes to the scene of the crime as an ambulance, pulled by all the King’s horses, takes Humpty to the hospital. An eye witness, Miss Muffet, provides the first crack in the mysterious case: “A huffy-puffy wind blew him right off the Wall,” she sobs. Not to worry, Joe is on the case, in his trench coat and brown fedora. Joe follows the trail of clues through Mother HumptyGooseland, from one suspect to another. Is it Goldie, Chicken Little, or one of the Three Pigs?

Stephen Axelsen’s colorful, comic-style illustrations are hilarious, providing lots more riffs on the nursery-rhyme theme. Somewhat older readers will enjoy being in on the joke and catch more of the references, but preschoolers will like this, too.  Puns abound in this hard-boiled mystery as Joe finds the eggzact clues that solve the case.

PrintCindy: The Crown Affair (2015) is the new Joe Dumpty mystery from this pair. Jack and Jill were up the hill fetching a pail of water when Jack fell down…but instead of breaking his crown, the crown went missing entirely! Joe is on the case and follows the clue to other Jacks: Jack Sprat, Jack B. Nimble, Little Jack Horner, and Jack Beanstalk. The alibis are solid and the clues are scarce, but the bad puns are plentiful. Joe Humpty doesn’t like the word scrambled but there are plenty of egg yolks to go around: “Looks like this case won’t be over easy.”

Young mystery lovers have to start somewhere, and this series based on familiar nursery rhymes is just the thing to hatch a new clutch of hard-boiled crime readers.




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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