Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2006. Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses. Illustrated by Simon Bartram. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.
J. Patrick Lewis’ sense of humor comes alive again in Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses. His witty collection of 22 poetic epitaphs chronicles the lives of a variety of people ranging from a bully to an underwear salesman. The unique, succinct verses cleverly capture the essence of the deceased and the bereaved. For the Underwear Salesman, “Our grief/was brief”, and The Book Editor, “She lived on the margin./And died./Period”, Lewis gives us a chance to laugh at our own mortality and even ponder on what our own epitaph might read. (Could the verse, Poet, “Reader, if I had more time/I say au revoir in rhyme,/Sayonara, ciao in verse --/But I have to catch a hearse” be Lewis’ own?) Each of the two page spreads offers an ode to a different dearly departed individual. The beautifully illustrated acrylic paintings created by Simon Bartram add to the tone and lighthearted mood and offer hours of exploration in the fine details. The delightful poems just beg to be read aloud as they trip off the tongue with alliteration. (He swept a beam across the bay/That set the barges on their way./A dozen lights shone past the pier--/The coast had never been so clear.) If you are looking for a good laugh and an upbeat, fun read, ironically Once Upon a Tomb is far from grave.