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Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  322 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
Irony and wit permeate this darkly humorous collection in which each poem is the epitaph of a different animal. The pieces are grouped by animal type, and range in length from one to eighteen lines.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published July 1st 2012 by Charlesbridge (first published January 1st 2012)
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Paul  Hankins
Faces of Death meets Wild Kingdom meets the playful urges of two of children's literature and poetry's biggest names.

The classic work and stylings of Edward Gorey are seemingly updated in this new collection of silly verse a word play from Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis.

Fan's of Neil Gaiman and Gris Grisly will enjoy the short poems that describe the demise of many animals. The illustrator seems to have fun with the illustrations. Readers who look carefully can find animals described earlier i
Mar 14, 2013 Rachel rated it it was amazing
This is a hilarious, if macabre, book of poetry of "Animal Epitaphs." It provides a variety of possibilities for the way that animals might have died, using puns, word plays and other literary devices to make the short poems humorous, rather than disgusting or sad. As the introductory poem suggests: "Forget the hankies./Read the words/of bugs and fishes,/beasts and birds./They know it's not/all doom and gloom/that's written/once upon a tomb" (5). In addition to the engaging writing, the book als ...more
Oh my goodness. Some of these were so hilarious. Loved them. Many of them go hand-in-hand with the illustrations to complete the humor. Some illustrations were a bit on the ICK side for me, but should appeal to the 4th-6th grade kids (especially boys). The humor will probably be best for that age group, too. I got more from the book when I looked closer at the illustrations, for in a way there is a continuing story, and there are some things that add to the humor, ick, or they-didn't factors.

I c
Oct 12, 2012 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
OK. So call me twisted (just a little). In a nut shell that's what this book is - - just a little twisted. So hilarious! Various animals/insects that have met their demise (in a typical fashion you might expect, a la bug on the windshield!)and now we get to read their oh-so-fitting epitaphs. The writing is full of plays on words, double entendres, etc. with hilarious effect. But really it's all about the funny yet almost gothic (think Tim Burton?) illustrations. Imagine ... a horse, looking rath ...more
This would be a good book to add to a haunted, ghost, monster, Halloween display. AND it would also be an interesting addition to a school book talk about things that are underground (the dead are buried you see). The book is full of epitaph poems about animals. And some of them are just funny. My nephew who was 5 had me read it to him. (He picked it out of my book stack of things I brought home to write about.) And he didn’t quite get it. But my older nephew did. And thought some of these were ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals, death, ncbla2013
Pun-filled and delightfully surprising, this collection of 31 poems from two talented writers is very funny and certainly not politically correct. Although I felt some guilt for laughing at the end of some of the animals, I also shook my head in glee and kept on chortling and reading as the poets killed off chickens, turkeys, horses, cows, a dog, a cat, and even smaller winged wonders such as moths and fireflies. Even the titles of the poems are clever. My favorites are "Firefly's Final Flight" ...more
Apr 14, 2015 Jai rated it liked it
Although it has puns for days, this book felt a bit much to be classified as a child's poetry book.
Feb 26, 2015 Dolly rated it liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their older children
This is a strange book, offering an entertaining collection of epitaphs for various deceased animals. The rhyming ditties are humorous (in a morbid sort of way) and very punny. The illustrations are a combination of digital, ink and gouache images and primarily consist of darker/sepia tones, with occasional splashes of color.

I would recommend this for older children who may find amusement in the irony, without being too upset by the gruesome and morose themes. Our oldest read this one aloud to
An interesting title to add to your kids poetry collection. Many animals pass away and the few words in their epitaphs reveal their demise. Funny, clever text is paired with grim digital illustrations in a deathly palette of grays, blacks, and dried blood.

The pictures can be graphic so this isn't one for a preschoolers eyes, but school-agers will love it. The subject/artwork brought to mind the Scary Stories by Schwartz. Overall, a fresh offering in the poetry collection that will win over some
Um, wow! I love this book! Runs the gamut from corny knee-slappers to dark and morbid. The art is beautiful and interesting, and add quite a bit to the storytelling.

There is a table of contents, which would be useful for storytelling/storytimes.

Ages 4+, though some poems will go over the heads of a younger audience. Still would be a multi-age crowd pleaser. However because this book is about death, I would probably not use it in a school setting, and I would probably only bring it around during
Aug 04, 2012 Marika rated it it was amazing
Looking for a dark, grim, and absolutely hilarious book? Look no further! J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen have written a series of posthumous poems, each commemorating the demise of a different animal. Dark, detailed illustrations by Jeffery Stewart Timmins show moments before, during, or after each unpleasant death, sometimes combining elements from different poems into one fantastically funny illustration. Last Laughs is simply fabulous. Read one epitaph and you'll be hooked.
Aug 14, 2012 Alida rated it did not like it
Sorry, it might be witty, but it is definitely NOT appropriate for children. I simply do not find funny the concept of laughing at the death of animals (or people) and having a child learn this kind of attitude, accidentally or not, is not my cup of tea. I was disappointed by Yolen.
MyACPL Athens County Public Libraries
from Deborah:

Last Laughs, a children's book by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, is for all those who've been missing Edward Gorey's sly humor. The illustrations provided by Jeffrey Timmins are vastly different from Gorey''s. Where Gorey was refined and tongue-in-cheek macabre with his black and white illustrations, Timmins drawings are more slapstick with creatures who've met their ends in silly faced ways.

The word play in the epitaphs make death slightly ridiculous and (can we say it?) fun. On
Oct 19, 2012 Lynn rated it really liked it
I loved this but wondered what kids would think. My 9-year-old grandsons picked it up unprompted and laughed and snorted their way through it which answered my question ;-) Great illustrations too.
Jul 05, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! These animal epitaphs are as humorous as they are dark. Great for school age kids. Here's one for you:

Good-bye to a Rowdy Rooster
Too cocky by far,
he head-butted a car.
Jun 21, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing

I don't care I will buy it for everyone. What is going on with this book
May 06, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it
I like Lewis and I found this book quite humorous and clever. I am sure that some will find it offensive...after all these are animal epitaphs so the animals are all dead...and some die quite unpleasant deaths...but it tickled my funny bone. I think this would be a fun read around Halloween. The illustrations are dark, macabre, but match the poems and even expand the poems.

For example:

Ciao, Cow

This grave is peaceful,
The tombstone shaded,
But I'm not here--
I've been cream-ated.
"Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs" is a children’s poetry book written by three authors, J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen and Jeffrey Stuart Timmins. It is intended for children from ages 7-9 or primary readers (P). It is a bit morbid to say the least. Set in a graveyard of course, "Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs" is a poetry book written for young children about the demise of 30 animals. Technically, it can be considered a picturebook. The images are pretty graphic for this age range and this is another ...more
Feb 28, 2013 Anthony rated it liked it
With simple rhyme, smirking puns, and slightly sadistic illustrations “Last Laughs” will make you laugh, let’s just hope that it isn’t your last.

The epitaph poems in this darkly humorous book are simple and pun-ny, and in general they were passable. Some were clever like Cooked Goose –

“He was Canada born
And Canada bred,
And here he lies –
Canada dead.”

Others, like Swan Song on the very next page, were not very impressive. –

“A simple song.
It wasn’t long.”

What makes this book of childishly dark poe
Laura Salas
Oct 14, 2012 Laura Salas rated it really liked it
It seems like only yesterday that I was sharing Jane Yolen and Pat Lewis’ Take Two: A Celebration of Twins. Well, they’re back and better than ever.

Their new collaboration is Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs (Charlesbridge, 2012). If you have a somewhat morbid sense of humor (and most kids do), you will love this book! From a horse with (hay?) fever to an unfortunate kitty whose love for yarn led to her demise, these short, mostly-but-not-always rhyming poems will bring on a good laugh. Just don’t c
May 18, 2015 Lynnett rated it really liked it
So my daughter brought this home from her school library. She was so excited to read it to me. By the time she finished I cannot say if I was more grossed out or laughing too hard. This is a dark take on animal deaths using short poems with added puns. Very fun book to get that student who "doesn't read" to not only read, but poems at that!
Jun 10, 2014 Sharlene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Not for the very young, as vocabulary and play on words makes it more difficult. Clever little poems/animal epitaphs. Funny for slightly older child (over 10?). I liked it. Example: "The last of a staggering stag... Win some. Lose some. Venison." The illustrations really add to the book.
Jul 19, 2014 Jillian rated it really liked it
Darkly hilarious, and definitely for older kids. The pictures can be gruesome - no shying away from blood here! And the puns...oh, the puns are horrible, but you feel bad for laughing at them. (But not so bad that you don't start reading the entries aloud to the people around you.)
May 04, 2015 Liz rated it liked it
"An Infirm Worm
To all the worms who've fed and fed
upon remains, you'll soon be dead.
Those who have the final laugh
will read these words on your behalf.
Here inside your earthbound tomb,
you'll find you've no more wiggle room."
Jan 30, 2016 Misty rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, childrens, humor
Amazing illustrations! Loved the art most of all in this shorty, morbidly perfect for the macabre child in your life, or adult ;) Wasn't sure if I should count this in my 2016 book challenge but it made its way there.
Sep 06, 2012 Alexis rated it it was amazing
Amazing,juvenile poetry boook intended for a intermediate audience. It is dark poetry book with illustrations to match the text. It is truly funny if you have a grim sense of humor. This book is by far one of the best poetry books ive read in a long time. The illustrations are a bit morbid but it truly adds to the comedy of the text. This book would be appealing to young readers because its funny, and rational to an extent. It answers some of the why questions children have about death. I would ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Jay rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I'd read it after meeting J. Patrick Lewis. It's a fun read. Maybe you'll want a funny epitaph on your tomb stone.
Jan 26, 2016 RubyRidingHood rated it liked it
Just picked this up off the shelf at a library. Some of the Epitaphs were funny. Lol!!
Jan 03, 2013 Susie rated it it was amazing
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall as Yolen and Lewis collaborated on this. I bet it would also be fun to see the "outtakes" of the poems that didn't make the final cut. It is such a relief to read something that is very clever and thought-provoking, if a bit morbid. I would love to have students create their own, complete with illustrations. This is good for a re-read, too, because you might miss things the first time. I loved the owl,
"Hit by a pellet
some other owl cast,
he asked, "Who?
Ashley marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2016
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J. Patrick Lewis is the current Children's Poet Laureate. He has written more than seventy children's books, including Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses. J. Patrick Lewis lives in Ohio.
More about J. Patrick Lewis...

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