Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs

YOLEN, Jane & . illus. by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. 32p. Charlesbridge. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781580897068.
Gr 2–5—In this follow-up to Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs, Lewis and Yolen accomplish a rare feat—creating a sequel superior to the first. Timmins illustrates the demise of prehistoric creatures using an appropriately somber palette. The collection of poetry is certainly an introduction to dark humor, but given the well-known fact of all prehistoric animals' extinction, it is decidedly less macabre than the earlier title. After all, as the first poem appropriately reminds readers, "Do we miss them? Now and then./But we survivors say, 'Amen.'" Though the cover illustration depicts extinction by asteroid, many of the featured beasts meet more commonplace demises by predators. Several lesser-known animals are included, from the trilobyte to the dire wolf and to the "vegan" dinosaur, Minmi. Lewis and Yolen seamlessly integrate nonfiction paleontological information, subdividing the book according to prehistoric eras and periods. They also follow each poem with a concise factual note, clearly delineating fact from creative license. Older children will enjoy punny inclusions such as "puncturation mark," and adult readers may reminisce over a nod to William Blake: "Tiger, tiger, hunting bright/near the tar pits, late at night." The text ends with an invitation for readers to create their own dino epitaphs, a perfect classroom or poetry celebration connection.
VERDICT A witty poetry read-aloud that just may spark independent research in dinosaur enthusiasts.

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