Deborah Wiles’ 200+ page children’s book that also speaks to adults was a National Book Award finalist when it came out in 2005. Scholastic published it, and as the author tells us in the Acknowledgements, it was written at a time when the author “experienced many deaths in the family” and was “suffocating in grief.” Her successful catharsis provides the reader with the same and demonstrates “the power of story.” She describes her warm, sometimes humorous, always uplifting novel as a “hymn to family; to kin well-known and kin yet to come.”
And what a family stars in this delightful tale. Comfort, the protagonist, with her mom and dad, older brother, and baby sister are all engaged in running a family-owned and operated funeral home in the deep South whose motto is, “We live to serve.” Every family member is expected to “serve” and to put the town’s families’ needs ahead of their own needs, especially in times of grief. Comfort’s process of growing up, experiencing first-time feelings of intense anger, compassion, love of family and loss is thoroughly covered. Her relationships with her best friend, Declaration, her “weird” cousin, Peach, and her faithful dog, Dismay, are explored as the story unfolds. It is a sweet story, full of Southern Grace and family love, a story the reader might find comfort in as well.