April 26, 2018


Matt James' author debut The Funeral is anything but sad. In fact, one could even say it helps readers focus on the good DURING the bad.

One day the phone rings at home, and Norma learns that her great-uncle has passed away. Norma and her parents gear up for a trip to see their family for the funeral, and Norma finds herself feeling conflicted. Why doesn't she feel sad? Why, in fact, does she feel happy? She's excited to play with her favorite cousin and can't quite understand why everyone seems so upset. But when she and her family arrive at the church and Norma gets a chance to witness the ritualistic aspects of a funeral, she begins to understand why those that knew her great-uncle are forlorn. And while not all of her questions have answers, Norma learns that people grieve in different ways and that a funeral means different things to different people.

The illustrations in this book are incredibly thought-provoking. James used a wealth of other items to create the multi-layered and heavily-textured story we see before us: cut paper, masking tape, rolled-up twine, cardboard, and scroll-sawn masonite, all painted with acrylic. Readers can almost reach out and touch Norma's world, which is extra important with a story like this. The chosen media allows readers to see things from Norma's point of view and be drawn into Norma's world of questions: how will we remember those who came before us? How does a death in the family impact those who survive? As if the arrangement of the book's title on the cover wasn't enough to tell us that this book approaches death through a new lens (with "fun" in yellow and "eral" in blue), this book serves as an expertly crafted vessel through which readers can begin to ask larger questions and understand the impact of loss.

The Funeral published from Groundwood Books earlier this month.

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