Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Dustin LaValley, John Edward Lawson, Mark Sullivan, and Darin Malfi
Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press
We horror fans are known pretty much universally to have weird senses of humor. “Bizarre” is a word most often used to describe us, as are “sick” and “demented”. Every now and again, something comes along that epitomizes that sentiment, with hilarious results. Such is the case with Raw Dog Screaming Press’ latest offering, A Child’s Guide to Death. To be blunt, this book is one of those things that makes you say “WTF?” at first glance, then laugh so hard you start to hemorrhage.
Formatted as a children’s picture book, the first thing a reader should know is to keep this thing as far out of the reach of children as possible. This is purely for big kids (meaning us), folks. With a tip of the hat to Edward Gorey, this book covers the alphabet from “A” to “Z” with a bit of nastiness for each letter, and a gruesome demise detailed in language a child could understand. From “Autoerotic Asphyxiation” to “Unethical Medical Practices,” brutal deaths are covered with jaw-dropping dark humor so brutal that most readers will find themselves asking “are they kidding?”
Accompanying each entry is an equally humorous (and graphic) illustration by Darin Malfi. Done in only three colors (black, white and red), each illustration cuts right to the chase in brutal fashion. “Death by Gang Bangers” is a personal favorite, as is the illustration for “Texas.” Without giving too much away, there’s blood-a-plenty, lots of phallic humor, and more gory goodness than you can shake the proverbial stick at.
The only drawback to this book is its format. Sure, it’s designed to look like a children’s book, and that’s the hook. The trouble is, they did it too well. It’s too bloody easy to get this book mixed up with, say, your seven-year-old daughter’s books, resulting in long conversations that probably didn’t need to happen until much later. Still, with some careful parenting and a few high shelves, this is the kind of book that will bring hours of enjoyment, especially when brought out to unsuspecting friends to make them squirm. And squirm they will. A few of the entries are enough to make even jaded horror fans cringe, all the while snorting with laughter at the ridiculousness of the subject matter.
In all, it’s a must-have for anyone that is a fan of dark humor, weird books, or just twisted childhood-type things. Fans of Teddy Scares or those little dolls that stab each other will love this book. The only real question is whether or not Raw Dog Screaming Press will do something to try to top this one. With the creative team behind A Child’s Guide to Death, I don’t see how a sequel could possibly lose.
5 out of 5
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