Knock Knock, Grandma's Dead
Written by Ma Bones
Review Roy Peak
This book comes from a long lineage of dark and disturbing poetry mixed with equally dark, yet fun artwork. From Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, to the work of Gahan Wilson, and Charles Addams, to pretty much anything by Edward Gorey (especially The Gashlycrumb Tinies) this book is in good company.
Each page of this book is a poem about a dead or dying grandmother and those they left behind. Why grandmothers? From the authors: "Because grandmothers are the hearth and heart of a home. They rear and raise a family. When we lose a grandmother, we lose a companion and mentor, but hopefully, through loss, we gain the inheritance of their wisdom and spirit." This book is billed as a vehicle for presenting the subject of death and dying to youth in a way that is both whimsical and macabre, yet this book is also extremely accessible to adults. Yes, it's morbid, and yes, it's funny, but there is plenty of seriousness throughout also. The authors tackle loneliness, bereavement, and being at peace with death with understanding, respect, and humor. No easy feat.
We get the riotous "Dancing Queen," the wonderfully morbid "Knock, Knock, Grandma's Dead" which gives this tome its title, the rather gross "A Low and Deadly Boil" the both funny and grotesque "Love in Small Bites," and the seriously sad "Not This Home for the Holidays." We get a large variety of dead grandmas including a punk rock grandma, a scuba diving grandma, a murdered grandma (mistaken for a vampire!), soldier grandmas, and even a trans grandma. Lots of interesting grandmas meeting their demise in lots of interesting ways.
A personal favorite part of this book for me is the preface where we get inside the heads of the lovely people involved in the creation of this book. In this one on one between Ma Bones and Nick Dunkenstein themselves, we get the germ of the idea that began this whole literary trip. It's candid, cute, and tells so much more about the book's creators than you would read from a book jacket blurb.
The ink and watercolor artwork throughout is perfect and iconic—part Dr. Suess, part Tim Burton, with a dash of Japanese anime. Sometimes these images add humor or pathos to the story, sometimes they are a counterpoint, and I have trouble imagining this book as just the printed word without the accompanying artwork. I'm hoping the authors decide to reproduce some of this artwork on t-shirts, coffee mugs, water bottles, or hoodie jackets because they're all wonderfully done and definite attention getters. Looking forward to what these capable creators come up with next!
You can order a copy of this book online at Amazon and get more information at the publisher’s website: https://www.knockknockgrandmasdead.com
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville.