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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Last Laughs, written by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, with illustrations by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. Charlesbridge, 2012. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"For a Bear, Barely There

He crawled inside
to hibernate
and reach his goal
of losing weight.
He missed the spring,
the summer, fall...
having eaten
not at all."

Poor bear...he slept until the second winter and couldn't then go outside or risk having everyone know he was not asleep when bears should be.  His fate was to sleep through another winter....well, not all the way through!  Poor bear!

You will know exactly the kids who are going to love these tombstone epithets of thirty animals, written tongue in cheek by a celebrated pair of poets. There is great variety in the mood that matches their exit from this life.

They range from funny (and punny):

"Ciao, Cow
This grave is peaceful,
the tombstone shaded,
but I'm not here -
I've been cream-ated."

to gentle:

"For a Frog: Not A Hoppy Ending
In his pond,
he peacefully soaked,
then, ever go quietly,

to somewhat grisly:

"Chicken Crosses Over
She never found the answer
to the age-old question,
Why did the chicken cross the ro --?"

to grim:

"Double-Crossed Newt
Little newt,
so small,
so fine,
so squashed
beneath the crossing

The illustration shows a roadside sign with a picture of a newt and a warning that this part of the highway is used by newts to cross the road. Too bad the driver of the farm truck didn't notice. Framed in black, with the upper body flattened by a truck tire, poor newt!

The creatures are as varied as the tone, and some will have you laughing out loud. Others may have you averting your eyes, or feeling great sympathy for the demise of a beloved critter. But, you do know those readers who will love them, and want to share them again and again.

The art is rendered using Adobe Photoshop, ink and gouache and relies on a dark, almost monochromatic palette. There are touches of other deep color when appropriate to the image being described. Darkly humorous to match the tone of the poetry, they are sure to attract an audience. Let them share the poems with each other, create a performance for the class, or just savor and enjoy!
Check each illustration carefully...there is more humor to discover...

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