The Funeral

When her great-uncle Frank dies, Norma prepares to attend the funeral with her parents. She practices her sad face in the mirror even though she is actually feeling "pretty happy." After all, she gets to skip school and she'll see her favorite--"FAVORITE"--cousin Ray. During the long church service, Norma entertains herself by watching the dust motes dancing in the light of the stained-glass windows. Ray climbs and fidgets and stares at the hairy ear of the man next to him. When they are finally released, the cousins slip outside to play, happily shedding the somber mood of the funeral. They read names on gravestones and roll down a grassy hill and find feathers and frogs and sticks.

Matt James's (I Know Here) quiet, child's-eye view of a funeral, with all its mysterious rituals and traditions, is a pitch-perfect introduction to a sometimes-difficult theme. Readers can see Norma's mind working as she studies herself in the mirror and looks at the flower-covered coffin in front of the church, and when Ray asks her if Uncle Frank is still a person. At the end of the day, though, she seems pleased by the experience.  "Mom..." she says as she heads home with her parents, "I think Uncle Frank would have liked his funeral."

James's inviting multi-media artwork in The Funeral includes acrylic and ink on masonite and dimensional elements of cut paper, masking tape, rolled-up twine, cardboard and scroll-sawn masonite. The overall effect gives the illustrations depth and carries the story beyond the text. Simply lovely. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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