Wednesday, 19 September 2012

review: All My Friends Are Dead

by Avery Monsen and Jory John
Chronicle Books, June 30 2010
satirical picture book

A dinosaur bemoans, “All my friends are dead.” A dodo points out, “All my friends are dead.” Not to be outdone, a tree declares, “All my friends are end tables.” Various other living (or not)beings chime in with their own sorry predicaments, finishing with a cameo from the Grim Reaper and a beautiful, moving monologue from the tree… just as he meets his own demise.

The cover:

It reflects the picture book’s style perfectly. As well, the lack of capitalization hints at the continuous dialogue that this book is. The simple colours work well with the stylish (but not overdone) display font.

The book:

All My Friends Are Dead’s strength is in its main theme. “All my friends are dead” is followed by “All my friends are bread” (a baker), “All my friends are hoaxes” (a yeti) and “All my friends are obsolete” (a cassette tape). It’s this sharing of woe which delivers the humour; misery loves company, after all. And the creative deviations on the theme are what keep the reader going.

However, when the book leaves the theme entirely, it loses its charm. For example, after the tree proclaims all his friends are end tables, an end table says, “I was never friends with that guy.” The tree responds, “Dangit.” And while it might be funny in another context, here it halts the established flow. Other attempts at humour intrude as well: on a desert island, one of two lone men announces, “All my friends are Phil! …The only ship we need is a friend-ship, huh, Phil?” Followed by a facepalm by the other man. Rather awkward.

All that said, the finish is a perfect contrast: the tree’s monologue is spot-on, as is the woodcutter’s appearance. And flipping to the very last page, past the acknowledgements and author notes, the opening dinosaur makes a re-appearance… however hilariously short-lived.

Rating: 3.7 out of 5