Saturday 28 May 2011

Book review : Ken Tanaka's Picture Book (For Grown Ups) - Everybody Dies

Following on from my review of controversial "kids" book for desperate parents Go The F**k To Sleep, I was contacted by the author of a similar book, Ken Tanaka, to see if I'd like to review his take on the "children's book for grown ups" genre.

When I saw the title, Everybody Dies, I did have a moment's hesitation. Like most people, I've lost people close to me and wasn't sure I wanted something so sensitive and traumatic to be treated with irreverence and humour. But I decided to have a look and see how it was dealt with.

Well, it's actually pretty inoffensive. Yes, you do get the odd bit of sick humour like the "fun activity" to tick off different ways people you know have died (drowning ? armed robbery ? overdose ? tigers ?!) and the picture of a tombstone where you can write your name and "ask a loved one to fill in the date after you've died" ! But the rest is pretty tame.

The book is written in classic children's picture book format with one sentence and a big illustration to a page. Despite the sensitive topic, I think it would actually appeal to kids who often have a very matter-of-fact way of dealing with death. The book does have a very down-to-earth way of dealing with facts, the basic message being : Everybody dies. Cute animals die. Scary animals die. So do people. The world would be a very crowded place if they didn't. Can't argue with that !

It's not quite as clever or intricate as Go The F**k To Sleep, which will have parents shamefacedly recognising themselves and laughing along, but I could see this appealing to teens. It reminds me very much of the humour found in the Hundred and One Uses for a Dead Cat books which used to have my mum in hysterics !

Ken obviously courts controversy and has an irreverent, or some would say warped, sense of humour, as the titles of his other (fake but who knows if he'll ever get around to really writing them ?!) books show : Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What the F**k? ; Ghosts Are Real & They're After You ; A Children's Guide to Heavy Artillery ; and Ken Tanaka's Big Book of Parasites. I wonder if he's ever heard of the Horrible History series - he'd love it !

You can hear and watch Ken reading his book on the youtube video on his webpage : It's quite poignant to see that the website was designed by Lisa Nguyen, who the book is dedicated to as "the one who should have been the exception". Says it all really.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : $11

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