Book Review: Duck, Death and the Tulip
Artist: Wolf Erlbruch
Published by Gecko on March 1st 2010
Buy from: Book Depository • Wordery
In a strangely heart-warming story, a duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death.
“Who are you? Why are you creeping along behind me?”
“Good. You’ve finally noticed me,” said Death.
“I am Death.”
Duck was scared stiff. You could hardly blame her for that.
Death, Duck and the Tulip will intrigue, haunt and enchant children, teenagers and adults.
Simple, unusual, warm and witty — a picture book version of The Book Thief. This book deals with a difficult subject in a way that is elegant, straightforward, and thought-provoking.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m not a picture book’s target audience. Right now I neither have children of my own nor do I work with children young enough to appreciate them anymore. (Protip: If you’re taking a dozen five year olds camping, always always take all the Hairy Maclary books. You’ll need them.) But there is one picture book that I pick up every so often and re-read solely as an adult who thinks it’s a great book.
My first encounter with Duck, Death and the Tulip was someone reading it to me. It was being used as an example of how teachers could use picture books to start discussions in classes with older children as well as younger. This was not too long after my grandmother had died and I was still struggling.
But after this book, I was on the verge of tears. Good tears, and I felt a sense of peace I hadn’t in ages. There was something calming and soothing about the book that was not an avoidance of my feelings but instead allowed me to acknowledge them – and a second read-through only confirmed that it was the book that made me feel better.
I promptly went out and bought my own copy.
The first two pages of Duck, Death and the Tulip
The story is simple – Duck meets Death and the two hang out for a bit until Duck passes – but the words are sweet and kind while still acknowledging the topic at hand. Death isn’t mean. Death just is.
Death is also the most adorable little thing, with his oversized skull head, his plaid clothing and his wee smile (and frown). Also, he’s not so keen on swimming and heights.
The art is gorgeous, simple and yet so expressive. Despite having a skull for a head, Death’s expression is always clear. Parents will appreciate it just as much as their children, albeit for different reasons.
Gecko Press recommends Duck, Death and the Tulip for 5-7 year olds, but I think older readers will benefit from it as well. And that includes adults. In fact, everyone should read it.
(They’re actually sleeping here. Really)