Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Funeral takes a sensitive look at a child’s perception of death

The Funeral, by Matt James, (Apr. 2018, Groundwood Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781554989089

Recommended for readers 4-7

A young girl named Norma attends a funeral for her great-uncle Frank; she’s excited to see her favorite cousin, Ray, but she also has questions – Uncle Frank was old, right? Is Uncle Frank still a person? – and the whole funeral service is confusing, maybe even a little boring. At the end of the day, as Norma and Ray play together, they’re both pretty confident that Uncle Frank would have enjoyed his funeral.

This is a refreshing story about grief and loss, because it focuses on the kids’ perspective. It’s a social gathering – we adults see it that way, too, but kids still have the innocence to mix their confusion at the whole idea of death with the joy of seeing family and friends that they may not see as often. Norma knows what’s expected: she models a sad face in the mirror; she quietly sits through the service, patiently waiting to spend time with her cousin. Death brings conflicting feelings and questionss, sure, and we can’t always give them the best answers, but at the end of the day, love and understanding is the best way to go. And why wouldn’t Uncle Frank have enjoyed a big party in his honor? The Funeral celebrates the optimism and hope that comes from a child’s perspective. It’s wonderful, and the mixed media artwork gives color and texture to the story.

 

The Funeral has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist.