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The Funeral

by Matt James

Published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-908-9

Ages 4-8

“Norma was practicing her sad face in front of her parents’ mirror.” Going to the funeral of her great-uncle Frank isn’t sad for young Norma: She gets to miss a day of school and see her younger cousin, Ray. The story’s wonderful details, as when Norma explores the contents of her mother’s purse at church, are so authentic they feel familiar. So, too, is the fact that Norma finds the service boring (“And oh, how looong they sat on those hard seats, with all that talk about God and souls, and not very much talk about Uncle Frank.”). Ray asks, “Is Uncle Frank still a person?” Norma has no answer. The wonderful mixed-media art, a blend of full-page and sequential images, shows adults around Norma often somber-faced, sometimes hugging or crying. It also exquisitely conveys the sense of release Norma feels when she and Ray are able to escape the sober atmosphere to play outside. Norma is not grief-stricken and that’s perfectly fine in this remarkably honest picture book. Still, she is not unaffected. After pausing to consider a photo of great-uncle Frank, Norma tells her mom, “I think Uncle Frank would have liked his funeral.” ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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