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Duck, Death and the Tulip


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About the Author

Wolf Erlbruch is a celebrated and original German author and illustrator. Winner of the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Illustration, he has received many other awards. Erlbruch is recognised for his witty and winsome stories and his sophisticated synthesis of collage and drawing.


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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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