The truth about death is pretty depressing: it’s inevitable. As adults, we’re consciously aware of this fact mostly because we have no say in the matter—even if we escape death in our personal lives, that luck can only be tragically temporary (just like us, unfortunately!!!).
It’s often easier to joke about death than it is to confront it directly, as evidenced by this article. RIP, human nature. It can be difficult to live with the reality of death… so can you imagine how impossible it might feel to explain it to a kid, like spoiling the ending of an otherwise excellent story. This children’s book can serve as a gentle conversation-starter in a difficult time.
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Matt James‘ The Funeral depicts a funeral from a child’s perspective. Even in its title, the book hints at the uncanny juxtaposition between the weight of death and the lighthearted whimsy of a child’s perspective—the fun in funeral is a cheery yellow while the word continues in a dim blue. Though the cover depicts tombstones, the two children are smiling and playful. The book opens:
Norma was practicing her sad face in the mirror of her parents’ room. Though she was, in fact, pretty happy. It was a day off from school, and she would be spending it with her cousin Ray. Her FAVORITE cousin, Ray.
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The Funeral tackles the difficult questions, but, as in life, the hardest ones go unanswered. Norma asks: “is Uncle Frank still a person?” Instead of explaining to children what death means (or, even more daunting, what actually happens when you die), James simply depicts what the process of death might look like to a child. The book portrays a scene of the funeral itself, during which Norma laments “how looong they sat on those hard seats, with all that talk about God and souls, and not very much talk about Uncle Frank.” The story is unique in that it grounds itself in the physical, sensory details of a death—it is not an explanation but an introduction.
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