Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Each Little Bird that Sings

Each Little Bird that Sings

Deborah Wiles
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006   ISBN: 978-0152056575

Comfort Snowberger is perfectly comfortable around death. This is not surprising considering that she has attended 247 funerals and has assisted in her family business, the Snowberger Funeral Home, for as long as she can remember. It truly is a family business; Mama and Papa, Great-great aunt Florentine and Uncle Edisto, Comfort’s brother Tidings, her little sister Merry, and Dismay, the family dog, all work together to make the last days of the deadly departed a peaceful experience.

Then, on the first day of the Easter vacation, Uncle Edisto dies without warning. The family grieves, Comfort writes a “Life Notice”, and Uncle Edisto is buried in the Bread of Heaven cemetery. Just six month’s later, on a lovely summer day, Great-great aunt Florentine dies while she is working in her vegetable garden. This time the loss is harder to take. It is especially hard because, once again, Comfort’s much hated little cousin Peach is going to be coming to the funeral. Peach is a real nuisance and Comfort cannot stand being around him. So Comfort decides to stay in her closet. Maybe she will be able to avoid Peach for most of his stay if she refuses to come out.

In the end Comfort allows herself to be persuaded to join the family, in spite of Peach. He is just as annoying as ever, and to make matters worse, Comfort’s best friend Declaration is being very unfriendly indeed. It is almost as if she prefers to spend time with her new friends, Tiffany and Kristen.

On the day of the funeral everything is decidedly out of sorts. Peach is acting up, Declaration is being frosty, and Comfort feels very lost and lonely. Her only comfort is Dismay, who is always there with his wet kisses and gentle eyes. Dismay, Peach, Comfort and Declaration decide to walk to the grave site. On the way, something truly dreadful happens which causes Comfort to give up on her friend, and which forces her to choose to save her cousin’s life over that of her beloved dog. When it is all over Peach is alive but Dismay is gone.

This is almost more than Comfort can take, but with the love of her family she begins to heal. Most surprising of all, Peach turns out to be a pretty good person, one whom Comfort can be friends with and who makes her feel loved and valued.

One might think that the subject matter of this book is a bit strange, but the way in which it is told makes the emphasis on death seem natural and not morbid. We can understand how Comfort is able to distance herself from all the death around her until it hits her close to home, and we can appreciate how grief stricken she is when Dismay is lost. Dismay’s disappearance is just one thing too many for the child, and she is unable to throw off her grief for a while. Readers will find themselves smiling on minute and reaching for tissues the next. By the end of the story it is possible to see and understand that death is not only about loss, it is also about celebrating life.