James, Matt. Funeral, The. Matt James, Illus. Picture Book. Groundwood, 04/2018. pp. $18.95. 978-1-55498-908-9. OUTSTANDING. GRADES PRE-2.
Norma’s great-uncle Frank has died. As the family prepares to attend the funeral, Norma, a white child, practices her sad face, though truly, she’s happy to have a day off school and see her favorite cousin at the service. This captivating take on a child’s experience of a distant relative’s funeral glows with feeling and joy. James grounds the writing in surprising details, such as Norma’s delight in the smell of her mother’s purse and the dust motes floating in the air like they are “dancing in beams of light.” Using strong colors, thick brush strokes, and periodic collage layering, the images further the vibrant feelings that pulse through the book. Two spreads showing the children outdoors are wordless, conveying their burst of play and contrasting with the talk and fidgety energy of the funeral service. The story is superficially and minimally diverse: several attendees of the funeral service have brown skin, but most individuals in the story are white. Norma’s final observations of the funeral, and of Great Uncle Frank, are thoughtful and life-affirming. Highly recommended for any collection.
Molly McCall, San Francisco Public Library