cover image Duck, Death and the Tulip

Duck, Death and the Tulip

Wolf Erlbruch. Gecko Press USA (Lerner, dist.), $16.95 (38p) ISBN 978-1-877579-02-8

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.)