Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis (review)
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Reviewed by
Lewis, J. Patrick Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs; by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen; illus. by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. Charlesbridge, 2017 32p
ISBN 978-1-58089-706-8 $16.99 Ad Gr. 2-5

Elegiac tombstone inscriptions have long been targets for good-natured skewering (think Disney’s Haunted Mansion) and even sharper-edged satire, and the idea of R.I.P.s directed at deceased dinos is promising. Execution doesn’t match concept here, though, as Lewis and Yolen present a variety of verse that’s more often miss than hit. The poems, neatly arranged chronologically from the Paleozoic through Cenozoic Eras (with specific periods noted as well), are seldom the concise tributes with startling punchlines that readers will probably expect, and few would fit on a tombstone. Instead the content is a grab bag of general comments on the featured creatures accompanied by a few italicized lines of scientific commentary or, in the disappointing instance of Plesiosaur, a tacit apology for how the information is incorrect. Nor does the boneyard theme enjoy visual treatment; a wackily cartoon-styled paleontologist Prof. M. Piltdown (sorry, kids, no explanation of the joke is given) appears in most scenes, re-imagining how his subjects may have met their demise. A closing note about geological layers in which dino bones are found lends curricular utility, and Yolen’s pithy “Holy Moly, Woolly Mammoth” is clever enough to make readers understand how this project might have worked. As the authors themselves suggest, “Maybe you could write your own epitaphs to round out our collection.”

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