Written by John LaFleur
Illustrated by Shawn Dubin
It’s tough out there for a teen, especially when your dad’s the Grim Reaper. In this short story, written as a quatrain poem, we meet Dreary, a skeleton who frets about his future. He’d rather die than grow up to be like his dad, waving a scythe and ushering the dead to the underworld. He commiserates with his friend, Naughty, the daughter of Hade’s Gatekeeper. Dressed in a crop top and low-slung mini (to show off her devil tail), she rejects her laid-out future as well; she’s not convinced she wants to rule Hell. But, unlike Dreary, she has already broached the subject with her father, and she nudges her pal to do the same.
Mr. Death isn’t an easy sell, however. He reminds Dreary that he’s part of an important legacy and reviews the many facets, the A,B,C’s, if you will, of this grim job.
A is for arsenic, quite subtle you know.
B is for band saw, no new head will grow.
C is for cudgel, for striking a blow.
D is for dungeon, a process that’s slow.
And so on, all the way to Z. Dreary can’t be convinced; he wants no part of this Reaper business. Later, when he meets up with his friends, War, Famine, and Pestilence, it turns out they all suffer from the I-gotta-be-me blues (Famine whines to his dad that he just wants a chimichanga). Whether Mr. Death ultimately gives Dreary his blessing is left a mystery, but the overall message, albeit heavy-handed, is clear: life is short, so follow your heart.
LaFleur injects a lot of camp into this macabre tale, while Dubin breathes life into the ghoulish characters with his sufficiently creepy black and white watercolor illustrations. Reluctant readers may find the book’s brevity and subject matter appealing, while the poem’s rhyming scheme can bolster their comprehension and literacy skills. This is the third title in the Dreary & Naughty series. For other titles, see the publisher’s website: www.schifferbooks.com