cover image Godfather Death

Godfather Death

Sally Nicholls, illus. by Júlia Sardà. Viking, $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-593-69210-3

Nicholls (The Button Book) pens a prickly, haunting story about a poor fisherman searching for an honest man to serve as godfather of his newborn son. Who should the fisherman meet first but Father God? An ideal godfather, surely! But when Father God says he treats “all men and all women fairly,” the fisherman balks. “Some people live in great big palaces...! Others live in horrible cold, wet houses...! How is that fair?” Though the fisherman’s “baby son was cold, and his family was hungry,” an offer of boundless riches from the Devil produces similar contempt (“No. Thank. You”). Then the fisherman encounters scythe-toting skeleton Death—“the only honest man in all the world”—who brings an end to all. In fear and trembling, the fisherman accepts Death’s proposal. But when Death provides the fisherman a tempting chance to prosper, the man’s downfall begins. Throughout, gracefully stylized vignettes and elaborate borders in autumn hues by Sardà (Moving the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion) present a distinctive concoction of humor and anxiety. It echoes suspenseful, folkloric prose that grapples with truth and human frailty. Human characters’ skin tones reflect the white of the page. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)