||Death is a way of life for the Snowberger family, since they run a funeral parlor out of their Mississippi home with the motto "We live to serve." Still, when 94-year-old Great-great-aunt Florentine Snowberger dies in the vegetable garden, no one can truly be prepared, even though she'd been bidding "good night and good-bye" to the family every night since she turned 90. Florentine's death is hard on 10-year-old Comfort, since the two were so close, even co-writing the Fantastic (and Fun) Funeral Food for Family and Friends. It's no surprise, then, when the annoyingly overwrought emotional displays of her young cousin Peach Shuggars and the sudden iciness of her alleged best friend Declaration Johnson send Comfort over the edge. Thank goodness for her shaggy "feel-good" dog Dismay who can eradicate all bad feelings with a single slobbery lick.
When a dangerous flash flood comes to Snapfinger on the day of Florentine's funeral, Comfort learns again that life is full of surprises, good and bad, and that, ultimately, it's just good to be alive. This warm, witty novel, told in Comfort's voice (and a mix of letters, recipes, articles, and helpful hints), celebrates the joys of family, of prune bread, of freshly sharpened pencils, and of "each little bird that sings." The fairly constant philosophizing about life and death, the unusual character names (Tidings, Comfort, Joy), and the narrator's oft-precocious voice may fray a nerve or two, but readers will find more than enough humor and good old-fashioned storytelling here to make up for it. (Ages 8 to 12) --Karin Snelson