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Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs
Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs
By authors: J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen   Illustrated by: Jeffrey Stewart Timmins
Product Code: 
Binding Information: Hardback 
7  - 10
In Stock
Price: $16.95

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Not your average poetry collection.

That poor old chicken never saw it coming. Neither did the owl who was slain by one of his own. And what about that bear who just wanted to lose a little more weight? If only he hadn’t insisted on hibernating for quite so long…

Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and the inimitable Jane Yolen team up in this ironic and witty take on the last moments in the lives of a variety of animals. Each poem in this darkly humorous collection is an epitaph of a different animal. Grouped by animal type, these posthumous poems are full of clever wordplay and macabre humor that will appeal to kids (and adults) of all ages.

Aside from the comical nature of this book of poetry, complemented perfectly by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins’ dark yet amusing illustrations, the length of the poems—which range from one to eighteen lines—create an inviting way to introduce readers to this often intimidating form of literature.

This book is good for your brain because it provides:
Poetry, rhythm and rhyme, good for the reluctant reader, humorous, life science, animal study, figurative language, word play

Download the cover image.

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  • Reviews
      School Library Journal - July 1, 2012
    Lewis and Yolen demonstrate their wit and punning skills in this collection of 31 short selections describing the demise of a variety of creatures, both domestic and wild. Each author supplied 15 poems; one is a collaboration. Cartoon-style animals on the volume's cover and the picture-book format belie the sophistication of the poetry and illustrations within. Timmins has used black, gray, and brownish inks with some touches of color (including plenty of blood red) to create the bizarre, sometimes grim or grotesque computerized scenes that are an integral part of each poem-a newt squashed flat on the road; a goose fried on an electric wire; a sick old horse drinking from a stream into which a sheep is defecating; a rooster's body protruding from a car's grille. Youngsters who can get past the book's theme and are able to understand and appreciate the "deadly" dark humor based on clever wordplay are in for a treat, for both poets are in great form. Some prime examples are: Yolen's "Firefly's Final Flight" (a poem in two words)-"Lights out." and Lewis's "Ciao Cow"-"This grave is peaceful,/the tombstone shaded,/but I'm not here-/I've been cream-ated." Poeticized animals also include barracuda, swordfish, rattlesnake, woodpecker, dog, skunk, bear, and others. Definitely a tad macabre, but original and inventive, just the same.
      Marika McCoola, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA - July 10, 2012
    Looking for a dark, grim, and absolutely hilarious book? Look no further! J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen have written a series of posthumous poems, each commemorating the demise of a different animal. Dark, detailed illustrations by Jeffery Stewart Timmins show moments before, during, or after each unpleasant death, sometimes combining elements from different poems into one fantastically funny illustration. Last Laughs is simply fabulous. Read one epitaph and you'll be hooked.
      Publishers Weekly - July 30, 2012
    Lewis and Yolen team up for a darkly funny homage to the dearly departed—those with feathers, hooves, tails, and fins. An axe leans against a blood-stained stump while three feathers drift nearby ("Sorry, no leftovers," reads a turkey’s epitaph), and a barracuda is destroyed by a superior predator: "My teeth were vicious;/ my bite was hateful./ A great white met me—/ the date was fateful." Timmins’s bleak, blood-spattered palette and zombielike animals create an appropriately dismal environment for the funereal text; lovers of the macabre will cackle over these unfortunate demises.
    This collection of "once upon a tomb" poems offers over thirty darkly punny, often extremely pithy ditties about the ends of a variety of animals. Subjects range from the turkey ("Sorry, no leftovers") to the "Infirm Worm" ("You'll find you've no more wiggle room") through critters as varied as insects, fish, and mammals. While not every poem hits the jokey sweet spot it's aiming for (and there's one that's silently adapting a college fight song), the speedy sepulchral irreverence will suit the tastes of many young readers, and the blend of sophistication and brevity makes the verses excellent bait for the poetry-reluctant. The art, digitally adapted ink and gouache, relies heavily on a sober dark brown that gives the impression of monochromatic illustration until one notes the touches of red (blood, of course), yellow (the fizz of the electrocuted goose), and warmer russet tones (in, for instance, the onrushing car that takes out the rooster). The grim polish and macabre comedy recall Lane Smith's work in The Stinky Cheese Man (BCCB 10/92); the style veers interestingly from impressive naturalistic detail (the doomed whale) to pure cartoon slapstick (the flattened roadkill newt). The charms here will appeal to lovers of Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, and their deliciously creepy kin, and the entries could make a ghastly and hilarious choice for older reading aloud with the right irreverent group. There is a table of contents, and the copyright page sorts out which poet wrote what.
      Booklist - September 15, 2012
    Welcome, boys and ghouls, to the pet cemetery. "Here at Amen / Creature Corners, / beasties weep / like misty mourners, / but when they read / an epitaph, / it always brings them / one last laugh." So begins terminally terse poetry covering the sudden—and often quite grim—demises of 30 unlucky animals. Take, for instance, the hen that has just been hammered to death by three chicks: "The end of her day / was in fowl play." Or how about the collection of milk cans stacked alongside an urn: "This grave is peaceful, / the tombstone shaded, / but I’m not here— / I’ve been cream-ated." Yes, this is a picture book, and heavens no, it is not appropriate for everyone. Timmins’ brown-and-black-heavy Photoshop, ink, and gouache illustrations embellish each morbid rhyme with macabre images (warning: there will be blood) and facial details that turn each animal into a nightmare beast. Squeamish? Then stay away. But those itching to move beyond the positive messages and bright colors so ubiquitous in picture books will find this just the thing to elicit appreciative playground groans. Gallows humor at its finest.
      Language Arts - July 1, 2013
    Last Laughs contains 31 poems full of word play about a number of animals that meet their demise. The dark, macabre illustrations provide clues about or depict what happened to each animal. For example, one poem features a speeding car right behind an oblivious chicken. The accompanying poem, "Chicken Crosses Over," says, "She never found the answer / to the age-old question, / why did the chicken cross the ro—?" (p. 6). "For a Frog: Not a Hoppy Ending" reads, "In his pond, / he peacefully soaked, / then, ever so quietly / croaked." Another poem titled "Woodpecker’s Last Hole" reads, "One peck too many / severed a limb, / and that was the end / of impeccable him." Readers who enjoy this title might also enjoy Once upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses by J. Patrick Lewis.