Duck, Death and the Tulip: Book Review

Duck, Death, and the Tulip

How I live with death as my frenemy

‘Duck, Death, and the Tulip’ is a bittersweet picture book about Duck meeting, and eventually befriending, Death (a personified character in this book). A deceptively simple looking book, in both its prose and illustration, it takes us through a deeply emotional and surprisingly warm journey of understanding and reckoning with death.

One thing I’m in awe of whenever I engage with this book, is the wide range of themes and emotions it brings up in different people. I find myself seeing different meanings in this book every time I come to it. When I sat with this book during Suicide Prevention Month I found myself once again rethinking what this book means to me.

As a person with lived experience around suicide, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between Duck and Death’s relationship in this book and my own relationship with death. When you live your life with death always so near, you experience life differently. While exploring this book through this lens, I realized my journey of healing was akin to Duck’s journey befriending death. I wouldn’t say that death is my friend, but I would say that death is my frenemy. Some days it feels suffocating to feel death so near. Other days there is a comfort in having death by my side. I’ve come to see my relationship with death as my resistance to the systems of our world that have consistently told me I don’t deserve to lead a content life.

Death is an immutable fact of life. The depiction of the experience of death in this book, with all its grief, inevitability, and nonchalance, is something I deeply resonate with. Often, in books tackling this topic or any kind of grief, there is a more positive or nostalgic frame that I simply can’t connect with. These books often talk about death as something that happens to you or as something that happens to someone close to you. These books often talk about dealing with the aftermath of a death.

To live with death by your side is a completely different experience. It is a struggle, exhausting yet liberating, and a positive or nostalgic frame doesn’t feel like it truly does this experience justice. ‘Duck, Death, and the Tulip’ speaks to death with so much more nuance and realness than I’ve ever seen in a picture book, and I’m so grateful to have such a representation of death on our shelves.

Pause Library does it again with this beautiful book, allowing me to feel seen in ways I never thought I needed. Thank you ‘Duck, Death, and the Tulip’. Until we meet again.

-Vasavi Eriki