Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen

Cindy: Who says that black humor is only for teens and adults? If you know young readers who like puns and aren’t afraid of a little gore in their illustrations, Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs (Charlesbridge 2012) might be the book for them. In this quirky collection of humorous epitaphs, the unfortunate deaths of a variety of animals are immortalized by the outré

 

Defunct Skunk

When he left,
he didn’t put up
a big stink.

 

This one reminds me of the story that Jack Gantos tells of his childhood dog who dug a hole and then ran and fell into it breaking his neck:

Final Pound for a Hound

Once he dug holes in the lawn;
now he’s there himself,
dog-gone.

 

And with Thanksgiving coming, how about this one that accompanies a bloodied ax and stump?

Tough Turkey

Sorry, no leftovers.

Lynn:  Cindy and I weren’t sure what kids would think about this groan-worthy book so we gave it the focus group test and it passed with flying colors.  Within minutes, they were gleefully reading the poems to each other, me and anyone who came within earshot.  Clearly this is a hit with 9-year-old boys anyway.  I thought it was wonderful too which probably says something about my sense of humor as well.

Jeffrey Stewart Timmins illustrations are as much creepy fun as the poems.  He uses greys, blacks and browns with just a touch of red here and there for a wonderfully macabre effect.  The cover and title clearly show what is inside and while this isn’t for tots, it will definitely be a hit with 3rd-5th grade crowd.  On this day before Thanksgiving, we especially like Cindy’s choice of the turkey poem.  Gobble gobble!

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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.

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