In this Norwegian import, Death, a shrouded, doll-like figure with flowers at its temple, explains its place in the scheme of things.
Sonorously poetic as it is, its monologue is likely to leave readers more confused than comforted. First seen in Schneider’s somber illustrations as a dark-haired white figure riding a bicycle through a grove of turquoise trees, Death introduces itself: “I am Death. / Just as life is life, / I am death.” Uh, right. Many of its ensuing pronouncements are equally cryptic or illogical; it “may appear / in the haze that hovers / above the ocean, / or in a narrow strip / of moonlight” and comes “most often / to those with wrinkles.” “Sometimes I have to visit / many people in the same place,” it continues, carrying an armload of victims away from a burning town. “I also meet some / inside tummies.” “If I were to die,” it goes on, “who’d make way / for new dreams / and new words?”—an argument that might have found better visual expression than placing it amid retro puppets and toys. Toward the end, Death is joined by Life (shrouded in golden hair but otherwise a green-eyed, light-skinned twin), because the two “can be found in everything / that starts or stops.” Everything, apparently, except for Love, which “never dies, / even when it meets me.”
Possibly the uncredited translation is what’s at issue here…but children struggling with the presence or fear of death are unlikely to find relief in this elliptical treatment. (Picture book. 7-10)