Duck, Death and the Tulip

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hans Christian Andersen Medalist Erlbruch imagines Death in a long plaid coat, carrying a black tulip. When Death materializes behind Duck one summer’s day, she is stricken. “You’ve come to fetch me?” But it’s not time for Duck to die yet, and the two spend the summer together. Duck drapes herself over Death when he gets a chill (“Nobody had ever offered to do that for Death”), and Death offers Duck some end-of-life pointers (when Duck worries about missing her pond, Death says, “When you’re dead, the pond will be gone, too—at least for you”). Duck is impossibly tall and skinny, with eyes that widen like saucers when she’s alarmed or angry. With the onset of autumn, Duck’s eyes close forever, and Death sends her down the river, the tulip on her breast. Erlbruch’s tale is full of unsettling contrasts. Death’s menace is tempered by Duck’s gentle, loopy presence; the sorrow of her end is eased by the memory of their friendship. Erlbruch does not offer readers explanation or comfort; instead, he uses his considerable artistic power to probe death’s mystery. Ages 7–up. (Nov.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—When Duck finally notices that she is being followed by Death, she becomes frightened and inquisitive. Death patiently answers her questions, and the two speculate about the great beyond. What follows is the construct of a unique sort of friendship. However, this is not a book about friendship; it is a book about life's most pitiless inevitability. Eventually Duck feels the chill of a cool wind for the first time and, lying quite still, stops breathing. Death tenderly strokes her feathers, carries her to the great river, and gently sends her on her way. This book tackles a difficult subject with eloquent, yet unapologetic candor. The subject matter may frighten small children, and adults likely will take pause at the bluntness, but the story is heartwarming and incontrovertibly portrays Death with a compassionate personification. The surrealistic yet modest synthesis of collage and drawings is true to the simple elegance and poignancy of the text.—Debbie Lewis, Alachua County Library District, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Parents who choose to discuss death with their young children may feel this odd import is an excellent discussion starter (if they don't find it peculiar and macabre). Duck is going about her daily activities when she notices the presence of Death. Personified as a miniature Grim Reaper, complete with long robe and grinning skull, Death initially frightens Duck, who wonders if Death has come to "fetch" her. The (not so) reassuring response? "Oh, I've been close by all your life—just in case." Eventually Death seems so familiar that Duck even reaches out to warm him after a dip in the pond. Touched but undeterred, Death waits patiently until one day Duck succumbs, whereupon he launches her (and the titular tulip) out upon the "great river." Erlbruch's text, in Chidgey's translation, offers plenty to talk about, with touches of gentle humor as well as some briskly summarized views of the afterlife. His illustrations likewise repay careful attention despite their apparent simplicity. Created primarily in subdued shades, they appear to incorporate drawing, painting, etching and collage, and they deftly convey both action and personality with a few lines. Adults looking for a unique, thoughtful perspective on a serious subject should definitely consider this—but be sure to preview it before sharing. (Picture book. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781877579028
  • Publisher: Gecko Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2011
  • Series: Gecko Press Titles Series
  • Pages: 36
  • Sales rank: 337,623
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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