Cover of Last Laughs by Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis

Last Laughs

With J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins
Charlesbridge 2012
ISBN-10: 1580892604
ISBN-13: 978-1580892605

Before he became Children’s Poet Laureate, Pat Lewis and I had sold several other poetry collections together–Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, the Life of Chagall in Verse, came out first. Then Take Two, our book of twin poems. (He’s a twin, I am grandmother of twins.) The third book we sold was Last Laughs, and I think we had the most fun of all working on it. It turns out Pat and I have very very similar taste in humorous poems: word play, pun, off-the-wall, and occasionally (as in this book) whacky. We chose animals, wrote single poems, workshopped one another’s poems. And in the end wrote the eel poem together, me the first verse, he the second. Jeff Timmins, the illustrator, clearly is the triplet, because his sense of humor is even more evil than Pat’s or mine. As Kirkus reviews said: “Cracked epitaphs from Lewis and Yolen.”

Also read:


  • Nominated for the Children’s Literature Association of Utah 2014 Beehive Award.
  • Finalist for the 2014 Kentucky Bluegrass Award! It’s on the 2014-2015 Master List, meaning that students in Kentucky will read and decide a winner during the 2014-2015 school year.
  • LAST LAUGHS was one of the Best Books of 2013 according to the Chicago Public Library.
  • Cybils Awards Finalist.
  • Selected as a finalist for the 2013 Ohioana Book Award

Around the web:

What reviewers have said:

  • “Lewis and Yolen team up for a darkly funny homage to the dearly departed—those with feathers, hooves, tails, and fins. An axe leans against a blood-stained stump while three feathers drift nearby (“Sorry, no leftovers,” reads a turkey’s epitaph), and a barracuda is destroyed by a superior predator: “My teeth were vicious;/ my bite was hateful./ A great white met me—/ the date was fateful.” Timmins’s bleak, blood-spattered palette and zombielike animals create an appropriately dismal environment for the funereal text; lovers of the macabre will cackle over these unfortunate demises.”—STARRED REVIEW from Publishers Weekly
  • “I wasn’t at all sure that I was going to like today’s poetry title. It sounded a little odd, but interesting at the same time. Since the book was also written by two of my favorite poets, I took the plunge, and I am so glad that I did. I had a grand time reading animal epitaphs, laughing (and groaning) at the clever word play, and at the images that the poems brought to mind. . .Full of clever word play and often decidedly macabre humor, these poetical animal epitaphs will tickle the fancy of readers who like their poetry served up dark.”–Through the Looking Glass Review
  • “This collection of “once upon a tomb” offers over thirty darkly punny, often extremely pithy ditties about the ends of a variety of animals. . . .The charms here will appeal to lovers of Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, and their deliciously creepy kin, and the entries could make a ghastly and hilarious choice for older reading aloud with the right irreverent group.”–BCCB
  • “Last Laughs was written for children but really it is fun for all ages. If you are a fan of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams, you will absolutely get a chuckle out of these poems.”–Diesel, a bookstore
  • “”This book is incredibly unique. It’s a poetic and highly morbid book that children ages 7-10 will love. My 7 year old boy absolutely loved it, my 5 year old, not so much. I think my 7 year old was able to grasp the humor, while my 5 year old was just a bit too scared. I was also able to appreciate the dark humor in the epitaphs and loved it! So, this book is not for the young ones, and honestly my 7 year old is kind of young for it, I think, but like I mentioned he is able to grasp and understand the dark humor. I think this book is one of a kind and definitely recommend it. I just think that it’s definitely not for the little ones. The higher elementary school aged child (especially the boys) will love it though! The illustrations can also be a bit scary with pictures of the animals being sick, or even dying. Overall, I really enjoyed this book!”–Kids Books Central
  • “A great choice for Halloween but it comes with a warning — yes, the format of this fun volume is 100% picture book but don’t let that fool you. This is not suited to your preschool pink puff and butterfly crowd. Lewis and Yolen’s endeavor is for an older picture book crowd, a slightly jaded crowd with an undeniable pull toward slightly macabre, dark humor. These are, after all, humorous animal epitaphs. . . An excellent choice for the older child who still loves Halloween and even for reluctant readers. Even with the longer poems, the text is brief. The illustrations by Timmins are delightfully grim and sure to draw in those who delight in the offbeat and slightly off putting. If you catch yourself chastising your son for one gross joke after another, present him with a book that celebrates his gruesome outlook on life and death even if this collection is more fun than frightening.”–Bookshelf: What We Are Reading blog
  • “Laughing about death is not everybody’s cup of tea, so when this book made its appearance in my 5th grade classroom, I made sure that readers were forewarned. The pictures are gruesome and the animals in the book meet untimely and horrible deaths…but at the same time, to the right reader (mostly boys, to be honest), this is a very funny book.”–A Year of Reading blog
  • “Cracked epitaphs from Lewis and Yolen.”—Kirkus