cover image Once Upon a Tomb: A Collection of Gravely Humorous Verses

Once Upon a Tomb: A Collection of Gravely Humorous Verses

J. Patrick Lewis, , illus. by Simon Bartram. . Candlewick, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1837-7

Lewis's (Please Bury Me in the Library ) 22 morbidly funny elegies pair perfectly with Bartram's (Man on the Moon ) hilarious acrylics. Each poem skewers a particular profession, from the fed-up food critic ("Bury me with/ Pizza, please") to the cafeteria lady ("Here lie the bones of Mabel Grady,/ Extremely thoughtful school-lunch lady./ She never served a Jell-O mold/ If it was more than six weeks old"). Several of the poems are deliciously brief (for Fortune Teller: "Here lies"). Meticulously rendered, Bertram's paintings toy with traditional icons of death. The fortune teller gazes glumly at a tiny Grim Reaper in her crystal ball, while the actual unwelcome visitor himself looms behind the clairvoyant. "Underwear Salesman" achieves utter synchronicity between text ("Our grief/ Was brief") and art, as the bereaved family, sporting slips, black ties and briefs, surround a framed head shot of the smiling dearly departed. A couple of poems lack the instantly accessible images that make the others such winners, but overall these are a total scream. Ages 6-10. (Aug.)