All the Dear Little Animals
Early readers will love the dry humour and wonderfully rounded story of All the Dear Little Animals. Nilsson perfectly captures the child's perspective, balancing compassion and humour. This is a very funny story about a topic that touches all of us.
101 Great Books for Kids — 2020 — Winner
USBBY Outstanding International Books List — 2021 — Winner
"Three children spend a day burying dead creatures in this New Zealand import originally from Sweden. This perspicacious observation of how children copy adult behavior in their play is also a hilarious spoof on the overtly pious funeral industry. Esther, her younger brother Puttie, and the unnamed narrator have 'nothing to do' one day. Finding a dead bumblebee, Esther declares they must bury it, but the narrator is leery of touching it, being afraid of death, and so instead offers to write the poem: 'A dear little life in the hand / Suddenly gone, deep in the sand.' Little Puttie, completely in the dark about death, is upset when Esther tells him he too will die when he is 'an old man.' 'But Mummy and Daddy will be so sad,' he whimpers. After the success of the bumblebee interment, Esther is enthused about burying 'all the poor dead animals,' and the children start 'Funerals Ltd.,' phoning neighbors for dead pets and scouring the bushes and byways for roadkill. The story cleverly—and tenderly—pivots near its end, giving it a touching depth (with a twist). Eriksson's keenly observed illustrations include full-page and double-page spreads as well as spots, and they are as wickedly hilarious as the text in their understated expressions and details. An abundance of soft springlike colors present a visually humorous juxtaposition to the morbid theme. The children are illustrated as white. Dark and hilarious." — Kirkus Reviews
"One quiet day, when a boy (the narrator) and his friend Esther have nothing to do, they find a dead bumblebee. Esther takes the lead, grabbing a shovel and burying the bee in a cigar-box coffin, while the boy recites a little poem over the grave. They're so moved that they decide to look for more dead things to bury, with help from Esther's little brother. Next, they find a dead mouse and give him a solemn burial, thinking, 'We were the nicest people in the world.' Soon they start an animal funeral business, burying a pet hamster, a rooster, a blackbird, and even roadkill: a hedgehog and a hare. Along the way, the children talk about death itself. The narrative concludes, 'The next day we did something else. Something completely different.' First published in Sweden, the book has a childlike tone that is reverent, winsome, and matter-of-fact. The kids' attitudes toward death differ realistically according to their ages and personalities. Sometimes amusing and sometimes moving, Nilsson's simply written text is always satisfying. Eriksson's sensitive, beguiling pencil drawings with color washes brighten every double-page spread. Like Margaret Wise Brown's The Dead Bird (1958, 2016), this pitch-perfect book shows children dealing with death in their own ways and then moving on." — Booklist
"Nilsson and Eriksson bring a whiff of Scandinavian noir to this lengthy, small-format picture book. After an encounter with 'something sad and tragic'—a dead bee—Esther buries the insect, then makes a pronouncement. 'Someone unselfish must make sure all these dead things get buried,' she tells the narrator, a boy in a plaid shirt. So they start a business, Funerals Ltd. The boy is a reluctant undertaker but a good writer ('There are lots of words inside me'), and he contributes a short poem for each funeral ('Farewell Harold, wee Harold so bold'). Esther solicits new business, sometimes with startling cynicism—'We will never forget him. That's what we're paid for!' Deftly translated by Marshall, the text laces honest consideration of a difficult subject with winningly mordant humor. Lindgren Award–winner Eriksson's (My Heart Is Laughing) lightly penned images of the children burying animals are the visual equivalent of Nilsson's offhand tone. It's only after the children tackle logistical matters—touching corpses, how to explain death to Esther's little brother, whether the gravestones need proper names—that a moment of real tenderness occurs: they witness a blackbird's sudden death, and even brusque Esther is moved. A sly, thoughtful, many-layered story." — Publishers Weekly
"'One day we had nothing to do. We wanted some fun. Then Esther found a bumblebee.' This illustrated early chapter book is a darkly comedic exploration of life and death. Three bored children begin holding funerals for dead animals they happen upon, beginning with the bumblebee. Flowers, poetry, tears, and a cigar-box coffin make the first funeral such a success that they start a business, Funerals Ltd. Among other creatures, that day they bury a pet hamster, a rooster, and three dead fish Esther finds in the fridge. Busy and self-righteous in their work ('We were very kind and good, looking after the dead animals. We were the nicest people in the world'), they enjoy great satisfaction and become greedy for larger creatures to buy. Then, at dusk, a blackbird flies into a window and dies before their eyes. The suddenness of the transition unsettles the three children, and this final funeral, though still melodramatic, feels more personal and less like a game. 'The next day we found something else to do. Something completely different.' Honest and uncomfortable humor within the soft, pale vignettes and full-page and double-page-spread art captures the book's spirit, with a final spread showing the graveyard the trio created, with wooden crosses and stones labeled with names (including 'A fish,' and 'One more fish') commemorating all the creatures whose lives were honored that day." — The Horn Book Magazine