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Each Little Bird That Sings

Review

Each Little Bird That Sings

"Remember that death is a natural thing --- it's all around us…Don't try to hide death from kids… Kids are better at death than grown-ups give them credit for…."

From the 2004 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship winner and author of LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER --- an ALA Notable Children's Book, a Children's Book Sense 76 Pick, a Parent's Guide Children's Media Award Winner, and a New York Public Library Book for Reading and Sharing --- comes a touching tearjerker for young readers about coming to terms with death and remembering to appreciate life in all its capacities. With a slicing candor that is at times hard to stomach yet crucial to the book's overall resonance, Deborah Wiles has penned a second novel that will hit readers through the heart.

Ten-year-old Comfort Snowberger's family owns and runs the town funeral home in Snapfinger, Mississippi. In her short life, Comfort has attended 247 funerals and has taken part in everything from helping to bake the casseroles for the guests to writing her own version of the newspaper's obituary column, "Life Notices by Comfort Snowberger: Explorer, Recipe Tester, and Funeral Reporter." Along with her brother Tidings, her parents, her best friend Declaration, Great-uncle Edisto, Great-great-aunt Florentine, and her dog Dismay, Comfort does her utmost to keep everyone's spirits up under what are oftentimes the dourest of circumstances.

Life runs smoothly in the Snowberger household until the day when Great-uncle Edisto has a stroke and dies. A short while later, Great-great-aunt Florentine takes a tumble in the garden and dies as well, peacefully sprawled out amidst the lavender. With so much funeral preparation and mourning to do, the last thing Comfort expects is for Declaration to ignore her in order to befriend two "cooler" girls at school. To make matters worse, her eight-year-old cousin, Peach, is acting like a baby and receiving all the attention! At the end of it all, Comfort is left feeling confused, hurt, and worst of all, lonely.

Then, on the day of Great-great-aunt Florentine's funeral, when a massive storm rages and floodwaters sweep Dismay under the current and threaten to take Comfort and Peach's lives as well, the Snowbergers' somewhat nonchalant and comfortable relationship with death is shaken to its core. But, through straightforward discussions, patience and plenty of hugs to go around, they manage to slowly rebuild their lives by reaffirming their love for one another, their community, and their lives.

Deborah Wiles's second novel is a quiet yet immensely arresting read for young adults. From its honest and direct approach to death, to the author's cunning choice of characters' names (Comfort, Declaration, Tidings, Dismay), to the fact that the ending certainly made this grown reviewer cry, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS is perfect for fostering parent-child conversations about what it means not only to deal with losing someone you love, but also to be thankful for what you have, while you have it --- "grief and fear and hope and love somehow woven together, somehow connected. All the messy glory."

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on March 1, 2005

Each Little Bird That Sings
by Deborah Wiles

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2005
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • ISBN-10: 0152051139
  • ISBN-13: 9780152051136