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DEATH IN A NUT by Eric Maddern


by Eric Maddern & illustrated by Paul Hess

Age Range: 7 - 9

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-84507-081-X
Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Maddern smoothly retells a tale learned from Scots storyteller Duncan Williamson. Young Jack meets Death on the beach and stuffs it into a hazelnut shell that he casts out to sea. He returns home to find his ailing mother suddenly much better—but eggs no longer break, vegetables can’t be sliced, and the cockerel can’t be killed. Hess gives his painted scenes a remote, formal feel by pulling back the point of view and placing Jack in lonely-looking vistas of beach or field. Death is a ragged, capering old man in black who, when the penny finally drops and Jack recovers the nut, springs out, makes the central point explicit—“You thought by getting rid of me, you’d stop all the troubles in the world! But without me, my boy, there can be no life”—and then genially allows Jack’s mother to live to a ripe old age. Like Yugi Morales’s Just a Minute (2003), this may help to make the Reaper a little less Grim for younger readers. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9)