Kevin O'Malley, . . Walker, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8756-9

When mild-looking Mr. Hatchery opens a volume of nursery rhymes, glum children mutter, "Boring." They don't anticipate his turning "Mary Had a Little Lamb" into an overwrought tale of an "egg-ceedingly large Humpty Dumpty" terrorizing a Mother Goose town. Mr. Hatchery envisions Humpty behaving like an ovoid Godzilla, demolishing a one-room schoolhouse and growling, "I'm huge, and I'm not gonna take it anymore.... 'Oh, look, the tubby bald eggman is falling off the wall, haa, haa, haa.…' I'm back, baby." Old King Cole, a lazy guy with Groucho Marx's mustache, crouching walk and merry reputation, calls for reinforcements. Peter Piper "pitched pickled peppers until he was positively pooped," but neither he nor the Muffin Man fail to scramble their foe. Humpty ransacks their Shakespearean-era city while chortling, "London Bridge is falling down!" O'Malley (Bud) takes broad liberties with familiar rhymes and bombards his audience with bad puns. His resolution lays an egg (swanlike dowager Mother Goose placates Humpty with an Elvis wig and a rockabilly career), but his story-hour-gone-awry frame works well. O'Malley's winking allusions recall Margie Palatini's self-conscious zaniness, and readers who enjoy the corny jokes can join Mr. Hatchery's listeners, who laugh uproariously. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)