Duck, Death and the Tulip

  • Interest Level: Grade 4 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 1

From award-winning author and illustrator, Wolf Erlbruch, comes one of the world’s best children’s books about grief and loss. Voted one of the 100 greatest children’s books of all time by the BBC.

In a curiously heart-warming and elegantly illustrated story, a duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death. Duck and Death play together and discuss big questions. Death, dressed in a dressing gown and slippers, is sympathetic and kind and will be duck’s companion until the end.

“I’m cold,” she said one evening. “Will you warm me a little?”
Snowflakes drifted down.
Something had happened. Death looked at the duck.
She’d stopped breathing. She lay quite still.

Explaining the topic of death in a way that is honest, lightly philosophical and with gentle humor, this enchanting book has been translated into multiple languages, adapted into an animated movie and short film and performed on stages worldwide.

Wolf Erlbruch received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2006 and was the winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2017.

  • Tender and direct, this is an excellent tool for helping to explain and talk about death, dying and bereavement with children
  • Loved by adults and children, parents and grandparents, also suitable for schools, grief centers and counsellors

Praise for Duck, Death and the Tulip

“The gold standard of picture books about death is Duck, Death and the Tulip…It’s hard to describe how this extraordinarily tender book manages to be both heartbreaking and comforting, but it does."—The New York Times

“The most extraordinary picture book I’ve seen in many a year. A duck becomes friends with Death, and it’s the most natural thing in the world. Trust me, adults get far more weirded out by this book than children ever do. Amazing.”—Patrick Ness, Time Out London

“The most moving book I’ve read this year is the German picture book Duck, Death and The Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch, about the strange, uneasy friendship.”—Meg Rosoff, The Financial Times

“The German children’s book author and illustrator Wolf Erlbruch offers a wonderfully warm and assuring answer in Duck, Death and the Tulip - a marvelous addition to the handful of intelligent and imaginative children’s books about death and loss.”—Maria Popova, Brainpickings

Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch is a superb picture book from Germany, that tells a gentle story of the relationship between Death and a duck. Death is portrayed as a sympathetic figure in a dressing gown who is with us all the time, but who only comes into Duck’s consciousness towards the end of his life. It is warm, poignant and witty.”—Anthony Browne, The Guardian

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Interest Level Grade 4 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 1
Genre Picture Books
Copyright 2011
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Gecko Press ™
Language English
Number of Pages 38
Publication Date 2016-08-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV039030, JUV002280
Dewey [Fic]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.5 x 11.75
ATOS Reading Level 2.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 147303
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Original artwork, Reviewed, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author, Illustrator: Wolf Erlbruch

Wolf Erlbruch is a celebrated and inimitable German author and illustrator. He has received many awards, including the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Illustration and the 2017 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Duck, Death and the Tulip

From award-winning author and illustrator, Wolf Erlbruch, comes one of the world’s best children’s books about grief and loss. Voted one of the 100 greatest children’s books of all time by the BBC. In a curiously… View available downloads →


The New York Times Book Review

“For me, the gold standard of picture books about death is ‘Duck, Death and the Tulip,’ by Wolf Erlbruch.”—Sophie Blackall for The New York Times Book Review

Kirkus Reviews

“Erlbruch’s text, in Chidgey’s translation, offers plenty to talk about, with touches of gentle humor as well as some briskly summarized views of the afterlife. His illustrations likewise repay careful attention despite their apparent simplicity. Created primarily in subdued shades, they appear to incorporate drawing, painting, etching and collage, and they deftly convey both action and personality with a few lines. Adults looking for a unique, thoughtful perspective on a serious subject should definitely consider this—but be sure to preview it before sharing.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly

“Erlbruch does not offer readers explanation or comfort; instead, he uses his considerable artistic power to probe death’s mystery.” —Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“The surrealistic yet modest synthesis of collage and drawings is true to the simple elegance and poignancy of the text.” —School Library Journal