Maddern smoothly retells a tale learned from Scots storyteller
Duncan Williamson. Young Jack meets Death on the beach and stuffs
it into a hazelnut shell that he casts out to sea. He returns home
to find his ailing mother suddenly much better-but eggs no longer
break, vegetables can't be sliced, and the cockerel can't be
killed. Hess gives his painted scenes a remote, formal feel by
pulling back the point of view and placing Jack in lonely-looking
vistas of beach or field. Death is a ragged, capering old man in
black who, when the penny finally drops and Jack recovers the nut,
springs out, makes the central point explicit-"You thought by
getting rid of me, you'd stop all the troubles in the world! But
without me, my boy, there can be no life"-and then genially allows
Jack's mother to live to a ripe old age. Like Yugi Morales's Just a
Minute (2003), this may help to make the Reaper a little less Grim
for younger readers. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9) (Kirkus Reviews)
When Jack meets Old Man Death coming towards his cottage, he
realises at once what's up. You're not taking my old mother he
cries, and hits out at Death with his fists. With each punch, Death
gets smaller and smaller, until Jack is able to squeeze him inside
a hazelnut shell. He throws the nut far out to sea, and goes
home... Then the trouble begins: eggs won't break, the cockerel's
head won't be wrung and the butcher confesses that he can't
slaughter any livestock. What has Jack done? How he discovers one
of life's basic truths - that without Death there can be no Life -
is delightfully retold by professional storyteller Eric Maddern,
while Paul Hess's artwork gives a glorious comic lift to a
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