cover image Drop Dead

Drop Dead

Babette Cole. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (30pp) ISBN 978-0-679-88358-6

The author of such no-holds-barred books as Dr. Dog (see p. 69) here explores a sensitive topic: the life cycle, from birth to death. Her typically nutty saga opens with two children's smart-alecky question: ""Gran and Granddad, why are you such bald old wrinklies?"" ""We were bald wrinkly babies once!"" the grandfolks reply, and embark on a rousing account of their long lives. Earthy humor keeps the tale percolating. As children, the two learn ""potty training, and how to say simple words like poo-poo and pee-pee."" As teenagers, they secretly try smoking; later, they go to college, meet in the film biz, get married and retire when their own kid has kids. ""Even though we've led such dangerous lives,"" they conclude, ""one day we'll just drop down dead like everyone else."" The accompanying illustration presents two sets of horizontal legs and one word: ""Bonk!"" Cole's comical imagery and matter-of-fact voice exhale a puckish humor, and the author's blithe acceptance of death bespeaks a healthy attitude. Yet her presentation of death as sudden and uncomplicated will not suit all tastes (or needs). Nor will the conclusion, which suggests that the soul reincarnates as ""a new baby... a ghost... an alien... or even two scrawny chickens."" No allowances are made for grief, or for readers who harbor a fear that relatives will ""drop dead"" without warning. Like any book on death, this one requires careful handling. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)