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All the dear little animals

We had a lot of fun that boring Summer day. We started a business called Funeral Ltd. 
We would hold the best funerals, and help all the poor dead animals on earth.
Esther's job was to dig, I would write poems, and Puttie would cry.
The whole world is full of dead things - said Esther - In every bush there is a bird, a butterfly, a mouse. Someone must be kind and look after them.

This funny, unusual and very quick (55 pages) chapter book illustrated by much loved Swedish Illustrator Eva Eriksson ('My Happy Life') was published by Independent NZ Publisher Gecko Press last month (there also is a previous picture book edition by Hawthorn Press).
It is indeed a curiously good book about death as seen from children's perspective, incorporated (as children do) in a play environment.

Cynical? I wouldn't say so. Play is how children process events and emotions (happy and sad ones),  it comes from their natural drive to live in the present moment with lightness and without sentimentalism.

Dead animals often represent children's first and only encounter with death, and we have a range of emotions here: from repulsion and fear (for the physicality of death) to sadness and melancholy, all punctuated by Esther's irreverent voice and Eriksson's sweet, entertaining illustrations, that quickly take us to the brilliant happy ending.

This is one of those books that tickle adults' comfort zone and excite children curiosity as they do not have an emotional superstructure, leaving them more grounded and with one extra idea for playing rather than with sadness. This is the magic of Scandinavian authors in my experience: they seem to have a specific power to speak the language of children, depicting childhood as it is meant to be: wild, light, real, uncomplicated.

It goes without saying that afterwards my daughter wanted to bury a ladybug in our corn plant, to which we still pay homage from time to time.
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All the dear little animals [March 2020]
Written by Ulf Nilson
Illustrated by Eva Erikson
English-language edition published by Gecko Press
Reading age: 5+
Themes: Death, Relationship with animals

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