Alice B. McGinty | Great stories with surprise endings

Alice B. McGinty | Great stories with surprise endings

As we gear up for summer, we hope for joyful surprises. What will summer bring? Hopefully some good books! Here are two wonderful new books with surprise endings.

"After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again" (2017, Roaring Brook Press, written and illustrated by Dan Santat, ages 5-8) has caught the attention of both critics and readers. What happened to Humpty Dumpty after he fell? This warm, witty tale will tell you.

Told in first person, Humpty introduces himself, showing readers his favorite spot high on the wall where he loved to be close to the birds. "Then one day I fell. (I'm sort of famous for that part.) It was just an accident. But it changed my life."

Though the king's men put him together again, some parts of Humpty couldn't be healed with bandages. He became afraid of heights. Each day, he walked past the wall and missed being up with the birds, but he was too afraid to climb. Santat's child-friendly style shows Humpty's sadness in the color palate and his isolation as he looks at the birds high in the sky.

However, as Humpty is looking up, an idea flies by ... in the form of a paper airplane.

It's not easy, but Humpty makes his own paper airplane. "My plane was perfect, and it flew like nothing could stop it," he says as he joyfully launches it.

"Unfortunately, accidents happen..." we read. "They always do."

The airplane has landed on top of the wall. And this time, Humpty decides to climb it. "I just kept climbing. One step at a time ... until I was no longer afraid."

While Santat could have ended the story there, he did not. Humpty, joyfully atop the wall, tells readers that hopefully they will no longer think of him as the egg who's famous for falling. In the pictures, we see his shell cracking and turn the page to see a full page spread of wings reaching out. In the next page turn, we see Humpty's shell and clothing falling away, as he becomes a bird.

In a powerful and touching ending, Humpty tells us that he hopes to be remembered as "the egg who got back up ... and learned to fly."

"Professional Crocodile," (2017, Chronicle Books, by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Georgio, ages 4-8) gives a different surprise ending.

The wordless picture book tells Crocodile's story in detailed vignettes, created in watercolor and crayon, beautifully arranged on each page. The story begins by showing Crocodile dreaming of life in a pond, when his alarm wakes him up in his city apartment. He brushes his teeth, chooses a tie and puts on coat and hat. Off he rushes to catch the subway, walking through a modern European-looking city (the creators of the book are Italian).

We don't know where this businessman is headed, but we follow along as he picks up a loaf of bread and some flowers. Crossing a park and entering a gate, we see him tossing the flowers to a girl in a window, tipping his hat and then passing a cage of monkeys. Is he in a zoo, we wonder?

He enters a locker room, undresses, wraps himself modestly in a towel and then dives into a pool. The last spread shows Crocodile with a big grin, naked and posing for visitors looking at him through the glass at the zoo.

Kids are sure to love the details in each picture and the irony of this clever story.

Here's to the promise of joyful surprises this summer.

Alice B. McGinty ( is the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children and the recipient of the 2017 Illinois Reading Council's Prairie State Award for Excellence in Writing for Children. Each summer, McGinty runs a writing camp for teens, Words on Fire.

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