Death brings both loss and comfort to four children when he comes for their grandmother in this Danish import.
In an arresting opening, a small country house with a scythe propped next to the door gives way to a kitchen scene in which Nels, Sonia, Kasper, and little Leah sadly sit at the table with a tall, black-hooded, slump-shouldered figure. Death, it seems, is not cold and remote but has a heart that “beats with a great love of life.” He patiently answers Leah’s “why does she have to die?” with a parable about the happy marriages of sisters Joy and Delight to brothers Sorrow and Grief: “What would life be worth if there were no death?” When the time comes Death completes the titular command—“Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life”—and departs, leaving the children clustered around their grandmother’s bed to remember and to live on. Pardi gives the Grim Reaper a kindly aspect, and if the philosophy is a bit abstract, the removal of any parental buffer in this episode reinforces the salutary suggestion that children are resilient enough to be in death’s presence without fear.
Gentle, wistful reading for times of imminent loss. (Picture book. 6-8)