Everybody Dies: A Children’s Book for Grown-Ups by Ken Tanaka with David Ury
So the book is funny … in a morbid sort of way [of course, I couldn’t resist!]. Its opening dedication adds a bit of unexpected pathos: “To Lisa Nguyen, who should have been the exception.” And the introduction a moment of philosophical truth on why this is a kiddie book for adults: “People seem to think that children need to be sheltered from the idea of death, but most children I have met are not afraid of death, or of this book. It is the grown-ups who shake in fear when they read the words Everybody Dies. Grown-ups are afraid of death.” Ah, well … we’re certainly getting closer faster every day!
In an attempt to dispel those fears, Ken Tanaka talks death on just about every page. “Cute animals [from hippos to “even long weiner (sic) dogs”] die and so do scary ones [sharks, vultures, cockroaches, included].”
“Your pet cat won’t be around forever,” shows a corresponding picture in which the kitty is about to be flattened by a cigar-smoking bearded trucker. Which segues directly into “Neither will Mommy and Daddy.” No illusions there!
“Some people try to avoid death,” running as fast as their legs can to a fallout shelter to escape a missile labeled “Sorry.” “Others try to tempt it,” surfers notwithstanding. No sugar-coating that “others just can’t wait for death,” plunging head first off the Golden Gate Bridge. “Nobody likes to think about death,” as a soldier considers the collateral damage (a baby!) he’s causing with his massive weapon. Oh, my!
No lack of harsh reality checks here: “But the world would be awfully crowded without [death].” True that. “157 people die every 60 seconds. Are you still there?” We are all mere statistics because “Everybody dies, and someday you will too.”
In between the reminders of our unavoidable mortality, Tanaka offers ‘Fun Activities’ from matching corpses to mortal causes, helping baby Toby die of old age (by bypassing such fatal life events as a peanut allergy, heat stroke, getting lost at sea, and any escaped rhinos), and filling in your own headstone as well as your own will (although the order of those should probably be switched – don’t die before leaving detailed instructions)! But lest you think you’ve prematurely reached ‘the end,’ Tanaka’s got some surprising bonuses to keep you reading!
So just who is Ken Tanaka? You may recognize the name from the viral video, “What Kind of Asian Are You?” – that’s him flashing by at the beginning. Not looking like who you might have expected with a name like Ken Tanaka (oh the glorious irony – I’m still chuckling!)? Well, according to his ending bio, Tanaka was born as Ken Smith in LA, but adopted by a Japanese family who raised him in rural Shimane Prefecture. He returned to LA at 23 in search of his birthparents, and reunited with his twin brother, who also happens to be this book’s collaborator, David Ury; when he’s not playing with his twin, Ury is also an author, actor, comic, and apparently best known for “getting crushed by an ATM as the character Sponge in AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad.'”
Ken Tanaka, who art thou really? Methinks an identity conspiracy is ongoing here!
But then again, as long as the fun lasts, we can all die laughing. Best way to go, right?