The Death Book

The Death Book

by Pernilla Stalfelt
     
 
The Death Book provides a forum for children to ask questions about death: Do ghosts exist? What's a funeral? Where do the dead go? What does God look like? Using visual jokes and informal language, the author provides a wide range of unsentimental, disarming ways of talking about death. With her signature comedic drawing style, Pernilla Stalfelt makes the

Overview

The Death Book provides a forum for children to ask questions about death: Do ghosts exist? What's a funeral? Where do the dead go? What does God look like? Using visual jokes and informal language, the author provides a wide range of unsentimental, disarming ways of talking about death. With her signature comedic drawing style, Pernilla Stalfelt makes the fantasies, fears, and realities of death accessible for her readers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Swedish author-illustrator Stalfelt (The Hair Book; The Love Book) takes a humorous approach to a tough topic: death and dying. Comical watercolor cartoons (their European sensibility includes a sprightly sprinkling of anatomically correct figures) quickly set the tone. Meanwhile, the straightforward text explores ancient and modern burial rituals, terms for death ("passed away," "bit the dust," "went to the happy hunting grounds") and the many theories about "where you go when you die" (heaven, ghosts-there's even a silly riff on vampires). Stalfelt tucks in plenty of giggles (for an example of reincarnation-"What if you become a hot dog???"-she shows a protesting wiener about to be eaten-"Noooo"), but some youngsters may be frightened by the forthright facts (e.g., "Sometimes a baby is already dead when it's born" or "One day you have your grandpa. The next day you may not be able to see him anymore"). With its candid and relaxed tone, the light-hearted narrative may raise as many questions as it answers, and will likely offend some adults with its irreverence. However, children old enough to understand the issues may appreciate the book's informal style, which leavens the weighty theme. From the opening page's discussion of how death is difficult to understand-"It can be hard even if you're really big" shows a puzzled elephant grappling with the concept-to the sweetly goofy "Song from Above" that caps the entire production, this is an original approach to a challenging subject for young readers. Ages 8-up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature
This interesting little book is designed to broach the subject of death with younger children. With tongue-in-cheek, the author explores all the nuances, both spoken and unspoken, that surround this sometimes-difficult subject. Accompanied by small, primitive-like drawings, the author briefly explores subjects such as the fact that all living things die, what that may feel like, why it may occur in living things of all ages, where the soul goes, what God looks like, angels, reincarnation, ghosts, funerals, and so on. She even explores some past historical rituals surrounding death. It is suggested that an adult preview the book before sharing it with a child as some may feel that the author has gone a bit too far or may regard the humor as too flippant. This is a subject that conjures up significantly strong views. It can certainly be used as an aid for discussion in allaying fears, as fears are sometimes worse than the truth. 2002 (orig. 1999), Groundwood Books,
— Meredith Kiger
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This title addresses a topic of interest and confusion to youngsters. Unfortunately, interspersed between some reassuring comments ("It's hard to understand what death is- not only when you're little, but when you're big, too-") are others that need more explanation ("Sometimes a baby is already dead when it's born" and "God is there [in the heavenly kingdom], waiting for everyone who has died to arrive-"). Throughout, flippant writing detracts from the seriousness of the subject and might offend readers ("There may be those who turn into vampires- like Stan, for example. Once when Stan was going to bite an old lady and suck her blood- one thousand mosquitoes came and bit him instead and sucked his blood! Served him right!"). Several spot-art cartoons per page include anatomically correct figures (dead and alive). A better choice for this age group is Karen Bryant-Mole's Death (Raintree, 1999), which is illustrated with color photos and includes notes for parents and teachers.-Doris Losey, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, Tampa, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unsentimental but misguided rumination on death, illustrated with simple ink and colored-pencil line drawings of deceased pets and people--nearly all of the latter naked and, plainly, male. Veering off on occasional side jaunts to bring in ghosts, Mexican Day of the Dead customs, and the like, Stalfelt (The Love Book, not reviewed) races past death's physical changes--"Flowers can get brown and dried out when they die . . . people usually get pale and a bit more yellow than normal"--and its most common causes, various views on what happens afterward, funerals, memorials, wills, and euphemisms from "bit the dust" to "happy hunting grounds," then finishes with a sprightly rhyme. Though this may, as the blurb has it, make death "thinkable" for children, its sexist language ("People used to take their best things with them into the grave . . . they could even take their wife or horse . . .") and derisive treatment of non-Christian views of the afterlife ("What if you became a hot dog???") signal a less than sensitive approach to an already disturbing, unfathomable topic. (Picture book/nonfiction? 7-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780888994820
Publisher:
Groundwood Books
Publication date:
01/28/2003
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
6.96(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.35(d)
Age Range:
8 - 11 Years

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