________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 20 . . . . June 10, 2005

cover

Each Little Bird That Sings.

Deborah Wiles.
Orlando, FL: Gulliver Books/Harcourt (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2005.
247 pp., cloth, $21.95.
ISBN 0-15-205113-9.

Subject Headings:
Funeral homes-Fiction.
Death-Fiction.
Grief-Fiction.
Family life-Southern States-Fiction.
Southern States-Fiction.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Elaine Fuhr.

**** /4

excerpt:

Top Ten Tips for First-rate Funeral Behavior

Life Notices and Tips by Comfort Snowberger:

Explorer, Recipe Tester, and Funeral Reporter

1. You don't have to wear black to a funeral. Any old color is fine; just don't wear a wedding dress or your torn shorts. No bare feet or flip-flops. Comb your hair. The deceased (a fancy word for the person who died) will wear more makeup than all the mourners combined; so if you run our of time getting ready to come to the funeral, don't worry about makeup.

2. Let's talk about the deceased. The deceased lies, all dressed up, in the open casket (which is a nice word for coffin), with his hair combed better than when he was alive. During the viewing, which happens the day before the funeral, people wander up to the open casket, and stare at the deceased and say things like, "He looks so natural," which is silly, because he doesn't look natural- he looks dead.

Comfort Snowberger is a lively, zany 10 year-old-girl from Snapfinger, Mississippi. She is like most girls her age in many ways, yet seems much more mature with a different perspective of the world and the not so worldly. You see, her family owns the Snowberger Funeral Home and death is a familiar part of her life. Comfort not only helps prepare for the funeral, she also attends them, reports on them, writes obituaries and keeps a journal of good advice for all those who have lost loved ones. There is a certain formality in the process of mourning, and one needs only to ask Comfort Snowberger if there is any confusion on this matter.

     Comfort introduces the reader to each of her family members with pride and love, all except Peach. Her mom is beautiful; her dad is handsome. Little sister Merry and big brother, Tidings, are worthy siblings, while her Great-uncle Edisto and Great-great-aunt Florentine help her see the best things in her world, reminding her often that "death is part of life." Comfort talks of her special dog, Dismay, who is with her all the time. He is a Funeral Dog, who helps the mourners feel better, and is an important part of the service. But Peach is another story. Peach is a horror! Comfort hates him, yet she is forced to look after him, even though she knows that he will ruin everything. And then there is her best friend, Declaration, who changes almost overnight and leaves Comfort sad and confused, not knowing what has happened.

     Deborah Wiles has woven a story of love, life and death that introduces a small town southern family. Ordinary families don't live upstair in a funeral home and smell the odors of ether and supper cooking, intermingling in their daily lives, so the reader cannot expect anything but an extraordinary story. Wiles' unusual way of depicting her characters adds humor and emotion to each situation that they face. The reader becomes a part of the family and can visualize the dust floating in a sunbeam in Great-great-aunt Florentine's vacant room or feel the peace that Comfort feels when she sits on Listening Rock and views her world from above. Between the giggles and the belly laughs are huge handkerchief moments and nail-biting seconds. Ms. Wiles is to be congratulated on another excellent story to capture the imagination of children everywhere.

Highly Recommended.

Elaine Fuhr is a teacher at the elementary and junior high school levels.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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