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LAST LAUGHS by J. Patrick Lewis


Animal Epitaphs

by J. Patrick LewisJane Yolen & illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins

Pub Date: July 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-58089-260-5
Publisher: Charlesbridge

Cracked epitaphs from Lewis and Yolen.

This is a collection of 30 tombstone remembrances with an eye for the emphatically stamped exit visa. Ushered along by Timmins’ smoky, gothic artwork—and sometimes over-reliant upon it for effect—these last laughs take on a variety of moods. Sometimes they are gruesome, as with the newt, “so small, / so fine, / so squashed / beneath / the crossing / sign.” There are the macabre and the simply passing: “In his pond, / he peacefully soaked, / then, ever so quietly / croaked.” Goodbye frog—haplessly, hopelessly adrift in the olivy murk, a lily flower as witness and X's for eyes. When writers and artist are in balance, as they are here, or when the Canada goose gets cooked on the high-tension wires, the pages create a world unto themselves, beguiling and sad. It works with the decrepitude of the eel and the spookiness of the piranha’s undoing. But there are also times when the text end of the equation lets the side down. “Firefly’s Last Flight: Lights out.” Or the last of a wizened stag: “Win some. / Lose some. / Venison.” Or the swan’s last note: “A simple song. / It wasn’t long.” In these cases, brevity is not the soul of wit, but lost chances at poking a finger in the eye of the Reaper.

Some spry and inspired grave humor here, but weighed equally with some unimaginative efforts.

(Picture book. 7-10)