40 Forever: Putting the FUN in Funeral


Friday, January 14, 2011

Putting the “FUN” in funeral

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Klise, Kate. Grounded. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2010. Fiction. Grades 3-6. 196 pages.

Twelve-year-old Daralynn is alive because she was grounded. Her father, brother, and sister died in a plane crash. Daralynn wasn’t allowed to go on the trip because she was being punished for going fishing without permission. She and her remaining relatives have different reactions to the tragedy Her mother gets extra grumpy, her flamboyant aunt falls in love with a handsome stranger, and her already senile grandmother takes to playing with dolls.

This novel is an excellent portrayal of what it is like to deal with an unexpected death:

“I knew I should have cried, but I couldn’t. I didn’t feel sad. That’s
the other thing about funerals: Sometimes you don’t feel sad. You
don’t feel anything at all other than a sense of floating about
yourself and looking down on the scene, thinking: That’s not really me. That’s not really them.”

After the deaths, Daralynn’s mother gets a job fixing hair at the local funeral parlor. When a crematorium opens in town, she worries about losing customers. Daralynn and her mother drum up extra business by throwing fun “living funeral” parties at the funeral home for people who want to enjoy their funerals while they are still alive.

In spite of the subject matter, this is a joy to read because of all the eccentric townspeople. It’s a really quick read–I recommend it to anyone who has to do a book report in a short amount of time. Klise’s most famous novel, Regarding the Fountain, is even faster because it is written in letters.

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Klise, Kate, and M S. Klise. Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks. New York: Avon Books, 1998. Fiction. Grades 3-5. 138 pages.

If you like Grounded, you will also like:

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Bartek, Mary. Funerals & Fly Fishing. New York: Henry Holt, 2004. Fiction. Grades 4-7. 148 pages.

And speaking of funerals . . .

I hope I don’t offend my family, but here are couple of my own funeral stories:

At my great aunt Louise’s funeral, my great grandmother’s hearing aid was giving her problems because it was buzzing in her ear. Great Grandma got frustrated, took out her hearing aid and loudly said to it, “Oh, shut up.” And the priest did.

At a summer funeral in Southeast Texas, I got locked in the limo at the burial site. It was blazing hot, and I couldn’t get the windows or the door to open. I kept knocking on the window trying to get someone’s attention, but no one noticed me for about five minutes. When I asked people later why no one opened the door, I was told that they thought I needed a moment alone. Likely story.

At a burial ceremony in Louisiana, we couldn’t find a shovel to put dirt on the coffin. We ended up just sprinkling dirt that we’d dug up with our bare hands. When someone finally located a shovel, a four-year-old child got a hold of it and had so much fun dumping the dirt that he got carried away and did three or four big shovelfuls before an adult noticed and made him stop.

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