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Author: James, Matt
Norma and her parents are going to her great-uncle Frank's funeral, and Norma is more excited than sad. She is looking forward to playing with her favorite cousin, Ray, but when she arrives at the church, she is confronted with rituals and ideas that have never occurred to her before. While not all questions can be answered, when the day is over Norma is certain of one thing: Uncle Frank would have enjoyed his funeral. This sensitive and life-affirming story will lead young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who have gone before us.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/06/18)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 02/01/2018 K-Gr 2—A girl's experience of her great-uncle's memorial service starts as these things characteristically do—with a ringing phone and a mother's tears. When the day arrives, Norma is "practicing her sad face in the mirror of her parents' room. Though she was, in fact, pretty happy." The first clue that the narration will be an honest expression of her feelings (and that possibly she was not close to the older gentleman) appears on the book jacket. The title is painted in two colors: "fun" in yellow, "eral" in blue. For Norma, this is a day without school, an opportunity to see her favorite cousin Ray, and a chance to play in the churchyard—painted in life-affirming green and surrounded by pink trees. There are signs, however, that Norma is not insensitive to the day's meaning. She ponders her cousin's (unanswered) question: "Is Uncle Frank still a person?" A smiling photo of the relative prompts quiet contemplation. James incorporates a variety of page designs and media into his acrylic-and-ink on Masonite compositions, thereby creating richly textured, transforming environments capable of emotional nuance. The cardboard organ with Masonite keys and pipes exudes colorful, swirling sounds. Cut paper caricatures create shadows, adding depth. Dazzling abstract details are paired with evocative language to quietly undergird the spiritual dimension. VERDICT Witnessing the acceptance of varied reactions to death and the elements of memorial will help children prepare for or reflect upon their first funeral. A notable portrayal.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library - Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 02/01/2018 *Starred Review* Norma’s going to her uncle Frank’s funeral, and while her parents are sad, she’s sort of happy, since she gets to skip school and hang out with “her FAVORITE cousin, Ray.” Over the course of the day, Norma observes the event from a mostly sensory perspective—the beloved smell of her mother’s purse; the dust motes floating through colorful beams of light in the church; the happiness of cartwheeling barefoot through the grass. While it seems like Norma and Ray don’t understand what’s going on, it is clear from their questions and reactions that they do: Ray asks Norma, “Is Uncle Frank still a person?” and Norma stops to look wistfully at a photo of Frank before they leave. The thickly painted, pleasantly busy multimedia artwork, incorporating collage and dimensional elements, has a childlike, freewheeling quality that perfectly matches Norma and Ray’s guilelessness. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of how young children with only a slight understanding of the significance of death experience a funeral, and it’s a warm reminder of some of the less somber elements—time with family and loved ones, an opportunity to remember good things about a relative, and a chance to experience the everyday treasures of living. Plenty of picture books about death exist, but in this, James uniquely and playfully captures the particularities of a child’s perspective. - Copyright 2018 Booklist.