Each Little Bird That Sings (2005) by Debbie Wiles is an intermediate level children's book which rocks with humor and wisdom and could be enjoyed by anyone up to the adult level as well. It is told from the point of view of ten-year-old Comfort Snowberger who resides with her extended family in a small Mississippi town funeral home. Attending funerals, 247 of them so far, is a routine part of her life. She is also a would-be reporter who faithfully submits her wry observations about life, funeral etiquette and even a few recipes to the local newspaper, hoping to be published. The first page, "I come from a family with a lot of dead people," reveals the loss of two elderly family members within six months; great, great aunt Florentine, and great uncle Edisto, who were quite old but very much a vibrant part of the family, along with the pattern of regular resident dead guests downstairs. But when the funerals are for family members, there is cause for personal reflection and evaluation of some of her relationships with her superficial best friend Declaration Johnson, who she longs to please, and her ever weeping, seemingly crazy younger cousin Peach, who she always tries to avoid. The slowly drawn out story of the storm on the way to her Aunt Florentine's funeral with flooding and the disappearance of her beloved dog Dismay adds another layer of grief in this year of too many losses, including her best friend's withdrawal.
But Comfort is a solid philosopher whose journaling helps her sort things out and come to new conclusions about her best friend and little cousin Peach. She has lived closely observing families experience the end of life as well as the present, and is fortified with family advice such as the words of her father, "It's not how you die that makes the important impression, Comfort; it's how you live," and her family's motto, "We live to serve." This book would be a perfect family or classroom read-aloud because it's the dialogue among the characters or Comforts's running inner observations that sparkle. The deeper meanings might well pass by young readers not so wise and without the experiences that Comfort has had in her short life. But the laugh-out-loud humor of the telling can be missed by no one. This is a story that longs to live on as a screenplay and movie, so colorful are the characters, so bright the events such as the waves of funerals.
The book has multiple copies available in the OCPL system, including two with Literature Circle editions. Click here to check for available copies. It is also available on compact disc which might be a perfect way to experience it.