Each Little Bird That Sings

Each Little Bird That Sings

by Deborah Wiles

Paperback(First Edition)

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Ten-year-old Comfort Snowberger has attended 247 funerals. But that's not surprising, considering that her family runs the town funeral home. And even though Great-uncle Edisto keeled over with a heart attack and Great-great-aunt Florentine dropped dead--just like that--six months later, Comfort knows how to deal with loss, or so she thinks. She's more concerned with avoiding her crazy cousin Peach and trying to figure out why her best friend, Declaration, suddenly won't talk to her. Life is full of surprises. And the biggest one of all is learning what it takes to handle them.

Deborah Wiles has created a unique, funny, and utterly real cast of characters in this heartfelt, and quintessentially Southern coming-of-age novel. Comfort will charm young readers with her wit, her warmth, and her struggles as she learns about life, loss, and ultimately, triumph.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780152056575
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/01/2006
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 72,622
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.69(d)
Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

DEBORAH WILES is the award-winning author of Each Little Bird That Sings, a National Book Award finalist; Love, Ruby Lavender, an ALA Notable Children's Book, a Children's Book Sense 76 Pick, an NCTE Notable Book for the Language Arts, and a New York Public Library Book for Reading and Sharing; Freedom Summer, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; The Aurora County All-Stars, a New York Public Library Book for Reading and Sharing; and One Wide Sky. She lives in Georgia.

Read an Excerpt

I come from a family with a lot of dead people.

Great-uncle Edisto keeled over with a stroke on a Saturday morning after breakfast last March. Six months later, Great-great-aunt Florentine died-just like that-in the vegetable garden. And, of course, there are all the dead people who rest temporarily downstairs, until they go off to the Snapfinger Cemetery. I'm related to them, too, Uncle Edisto always told me, "Everybody's kin, Comfort," he said.

Downstairs at Snowberger's, my daddy deals with death by misadventure, illness, and natural causes galore. Sometimes I ask him how somebody died. He tells me, then he says, "It's not how you die that makes the important impression, Comfort; it's how you live. Now go live awhile, honey, and let me get back to work." But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up. I'll start with Great-uncle Edisto and last March, since that death involves me-I witnessed it.

It was March 27, the first day of Easter vacation. I had just finished deviling eggs in the upstairs kitchen. Uncle Edisto and I were planning the first picnic of spring. My best friend, Declaration Johnson, would be joining us. I was sitting at the kitchen table, scarfing down my Chocolate Buzz Krispies. Uncle Edisto licked the end of his pencil and scribbled onto the crossword puzzle in the Aurora County News. Daddy and Mama were working. Great-great-aunt Florentine had just sneaked her ritual piece of bacon from the paper-toweled rack by the stove.

"I'm off to the garden, darlin's!" she said. "I feel a need to sing to the peas!" She kissed Great-uncle Edisto's head. He looked up from his crossword puzzle and sang-to the tune of "Oh! Susanna"-"Oh, Peas-Anna! Don't you cry for me . . ." I laughed with my mouth full of cereal. Aunt Florentine blew me a kiss, then she drifted out of the room, singing to herself: "For I come from Mississippi with a Moon Pie on my knee!"

"'Moon Pie'!" said Uncle Edisto, poising his pencil over the crossword puzzle. "That's it! Twenty-four across!"

The sky had been clouding up all morning, but I was ignoring all signs of rain. A grumble of thunder brought my dog, Dismay, to the kitchen, where he shoved himself at my feet under the table, pressed his shaggy black body against my legs, and shuddered.

"Oh, now, doggie!" said Great-uncle Edisto, peering under the table at Dismay. "You don't have to worry about no thunder! It's a beautiful day for a pic-a-nic!" Uncle Edisto was always optimistic. "Yessir," he said, smiling at me, "a pic-a-nic at Listening Rock should be just about perfect today!"

Then-Craaaack! went the thunder. Sizzle! went the lightning. And Boom! . . . The sky opened wide and rain sheared down like curtains.

Dismay scrambled for my lap, bobbling the kitchen table on his back.

"Whoa, doggie!" called Great-uncle Edisto. He steadied the table as Dismay yelped and tried to get out from under the table and onto me.

"Down, Dismay!" I shouted. Milk sloshed out of my bowl, and I made a mighty push-back in my chair. Dismay's toenails clawed my legs and his thick coat crammed itself into my nose as my chair tipped sideways with me and Dismay in it. "Umpgh!" The air left my body. My Snowberger's baseball cap popped right off my head. And there I was, lying on the kitchen floor with a sixty-five-pound dog in my face. He stuck his shaggy snout into my neck and shivered. An obituary headline flashed into my mind: Local Girl, 10, Done In by Storm and Petrified Pet!

Into the middle of all this commotion clomped my little sister, Merry, wearing Mama's high heels and a red slip that pooled around her feet. I peeked at her from under my dog blanket. As soon as she saw me, her eyebrows popped high and her mouth rounded into a tiny O of surprise.

"Dead!" she said.

"No," I said. I spit out dog hair. It was fine and silky and tasted like the cow pond.

"You all right, Comfort?" Great-uncle Edisto towered over me. He wore fat blue suspenders, and I could smell his old-person-after-shaving smell.

"I'm okay."

My head hurt. My plans were ruined. My dog was overwrought. But other than that, I was fine.

"Fumfort!" chirped Merry.

"Move, Dismay!" I pushed at him, but Dismay was glued to me like Elmer's. He gave my face three quick licks with his wet tongue, as if to say, Yep, it's thunder! Yep, it's thunder!! Yep, it's thunder!!!

Merry turned herself around and stomped out of the kitchen, singing, to the tune of "Jingle Bells": "Fumfort dead, Fumfort dead, Fumfort dead away!"

Downstairs the front doors slammed, and my older brother, Tidings, who had been painting the fence by the front parking lot, yelled, "Attention, all personnel! Where are the big umbrellas! I need rain cover!"

Dismay immediately detached himself from me and scuttled for the grand front staircase to find Tidings, who was bigger than I was and who offered more protection.

I gazed at the ceiling and took stock of the situation. One: It was raining hard. There went my picnic. Two: Best friend or not, Declaration would not come over in the rain-she didn't like to get wet. There went my plans. Three: I didn't have a three, but if I thought about it long enough, I would.

Great-uncle Edisto extended a knobby hand to me and winced as he pulled me to my feet. He gave me my baseball cap, and I used both hands to pull it back onto my head.

"You're gettin' to be a big girl," he said. He picked up the newspaper, tucked his pencil behind his ear, and looked out at the downpour. His voice took on a thoughtful tone. "The rain serves us."

Great-uncle Edisto always talked like that. Everything, even death, served us, according to him. Everything had a grand purpose, and there was nothing amiss in the universe; it was our job to adjust to whatever came our way. I didn't get it.

"We can have us some deviled eggs and tuner-fish sandwiches right here in the kitchen, Comfort," he went on. "Or, we can try another day for that pic-a-nic."

When I didn't answer, he turned his head to find me. "What's the matter, honey?"

"I'm disappointed." I studied my scratched-up legs.

"So am I!" Great-uncle Edisto took a Snowberger's handkerchief out of his shirt pocket and mopped at his face. "I like to pic-a-nic more than a bee likes to bumble!"

He did.

While we straightened the table and chairs and cleaned up the spilled cereal, Great-uncle Edisto told me about how disappointments can be good things-like the time he thought he'd planted Abraham Lincoln tomato plants in the garden but found out later they were really Sunsweet cherry tomatoes. He'd had his heart set on sinking his teeth into those fat Abe Lincoln tomatoes, but then he discovered that he liked the Sunsweets even better-and besides, he could pop a whole Sunsweet into his mouth at once and save his front teeth some wear and tear. "A distinct advantage at my age," he said.

"That doesn't help my mood," I said. The rain pounded so hard on the tin roof, it made a roaring sound inside the kitchen and we had to shout to be heard.

"Think of disappointment as a happy little surprise, Comfort. For instance . . ." Great-uncle Edisto pushed his glasses up on his nose and smiled like he had just invented a new thought. "I think I'll get me a nap." He was breathing hard. "There's always something good to come out of disappointment, Comfort. You'll see."

I could tell by the rhythm and tone of his voice that he was working up to his grand finale: "Open your arms to life! Let it strut into your heart in all its messy glory!"

"I don't like messes," I told him. "I like my plans."

Uncle Edisto patted me on the shoulder and lumbered off to his room. I called Declaration on the kitchen telephone, but her line was busy. I hung up and waited for her to call me, but she didn't, so I tried dialing her six more times. Then I gave up.

Tidings slammed the downstairs doors on his way back outside, and Dismay came to find me. We went to my closet to wait for something good to happen. I do my best thinking in the closet. It's quiet and comfortable and smells like opportunity. I sat with my back against the wall and my knees under my chin. Dismay sat facing me (it's a big closet), with his paws touching my bare toes. He panted nervously and his dog saliva drip-drip-dripped onto my feet.

"Thunder's gone," I said. "You can rest easy, boy."

Dismay wasn't sure, but he smiled at me anyway, with those shiny dog eyes. It made me want to hug him, so I did. His tail thump-thump-thumped the floor.

Copyright © 2005 by Deborah Wiles

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Each Little Bird That Sings 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh how I love this tale! Told from the perspective of ten year old Comfort Snowberger whose family owns the small town funeral home, this is such a delightful book that each page is filled with humor, poignancy and wisdom.No stranger to the grief of others, Comfort witnessed 247 funerals. When funeral #248 is that of her beloved Great, Great Aunt Florence, quickly followed by funeral #248 of loving, kind Uncle Edisto, Comfort realizes that "Life is full of surprises, not all of them good."When her childhood friend betrays her and her cousin Peach gets on her every last nerve, she has her wonderful dog Dismay to get her through.spoiler --- When Dismay tragically is lost, Comfort's grief is severe. Realizing that we grieve in equal measure to the love we received and give, Comfort incredibly shines through.This is a book of hope, of sunshine through the rain, of images that melt your heart and then make you laugh right out loud.With characters named Tidings, Comfort, Dismay, Baby Merry, Declaration and Peach, the creativity leaps from the pages.Highly Recommended!
alyssabuzbee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story about a girl who grows up in a funeral home. She deals with death in her family and relationships with her cousin and best friend as they change. I found this books very honest portrayal of death and dying very refreshing.
jasminemarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about a girl whose family lives in a funeral home. Not the typical childhood one expects. Most of my students have enjoyed this book each year even though it pushes them to think about death in a way that they probably have not experienced before. As 5th graders, some of my students aren't mature enough to "get" the story, but overall it is well-received by most of my students each year.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Down-home characters, a loyal dog, and wonderfully touching messages concerning love and loss give this book a feel that brought to mind "Because of Winn Dixie".
MandaW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, even though it was quite sad. I believe it would be a good book to give a child who is going through the loss of a loved one (or a pet). 5 stars.
ewyatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Comfort Snowberger lives in a funeral home. She is an avid writer, writing life notices instead of death notices and writing rules for proper funeral behavior. After a couple losses in her family, a strained relationship with her best friend Declaration, and a long visit from her pesky-cousin, Comfort feels like her life is out of control. Comfort learns a lot of valuable life lessons over the course of the novel. A really cute, touching read!
yorkie1887 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story about a girl who isn't afraid to be different.This book also gives you an inside peek at what it is like to work at a funeral home
yamatos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When ten-year-old Comfort Snowberger has to deal with the sudden death of her Great-uncle Edisto and Great-great-aunt Florintine she has to deal with her very obnoxious cousin Peach,who gets Comfort in a lot of trouble. A lot of horriable things happen during this sad time. While a walk ,Peach and Comfort get stuck in a flood and Comfort loses her dog Dismay while saving Peach's life.
bibliophile26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the author of one of my favorite children's books, Ruby Lavender. The story of a little girl growing up in a funeral home surrounded by death. Funny at times, and very heartwrenching
la_librarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Each little bird that sings is wonderful story for any young person that has experienced a loss in their lives. Comfort Snowberger's family runs a funeral home and it seems that she is more comfortable with dying and death than most adults. She believes that death is a part of life...until she loses something she didn't expect to lose. Wiles handles the emotions of loss well coming from several losses in the past years herself. Highly recommended for middleschoolers.
makeart2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those heartwarming children's stories that everyone should read. It handles the difficult issue of death with warmth and humor. It is one of the BEST books I have ever read, you should read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a heart braking story, and It is one of those books you can read over and over again without getting bored.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't necessarily like reading but my mom bought me this book and I decided since I needed to read for a class anyways I would just read this book, it had a beautiful cover and an interesting name. I was actually kind of excited to read it, and that doesn't happen very much! It seemed a little weird at first, reading about a family that lives at the towns funeral home, but it kept my attention. I'm not one for death but this gave me a whole new look on the passed on. The author did a WONDERFUL job at making you feel as if you were right there next to Comfort Snowberger, experiencing her trials as she told us of her life being a resident of the Snowbergers funeral home. The story pulled me in and I was hooked. I kept reading and the author started to add a little bit of drama to the story between Comfort and her best friend since child hood, Declaration. I think the author did a great job of getting you involved in their drama and made it easy to relate to what was going on in the story, I am a sucker for books with drama, this just added so much more to the story. The book got really interesting when a family death caused some of Comforts odd relatives to come stay. Peach, her little cousin, reminds me exactly of my annoying, but loving little ten year old nephew! that fact made it fun to read the story and easy to relate to Comforts "annoyance" toward Peach cause I know exactly how she feels! But you really get to see the softer side of Comfort toward the end when Peach is having a hard time excepting a horrible death that took place and comfort calms him and reinsures that everything is okay. The part I liked best of the story was the climax, when her and Peach were sucked into a life threatening flood and Comfort made a brave decision to let go of her loyal companion Dismay (her dog) in order to save peach. I believe I read this chapter twice because it just pulls you in and you feel like your right there with them mixed up in this whole situation. I would recommend this to anyone who has a problem dealing with a death of a family member or a beloved friend. Its also a great book for someone who likes reading heart felt, personal stories. I wish I would have had this book when i lost my dog because it would have helped a lot! This book is in my top ten picks, it was a cute story that could help someone with personal problems or it could just be a fun read. I loved this book and I would be willing to read it a couple times more for sure, I fell in love with it instantly and will most likely continue to love it!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. It was so emotional and i felt like i was there with Comfort. I read this book when I was little and when my Great Grandma died, I read this book again and it helped my cope with her death. I would recomend this book to anyone that has hand a hard time with dealing with death.
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Book_Worm_1998 More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was good from start to finish, and I never got bored with it. The only thing I didn't like was that the ending confused me. But, still good. I started reading this in school, then I took it home and forgot to return it... Oh well! I didn't have to pay for it, and it is a good book to read over again and again. But, I do feel bad for the guy who payed for it.. He was another student... But anyway, read this book! -Book_Worm_1998
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mostest_pug_lover More than 1 year ago
Wow! I loved this book! I finished it in one night. It was a great read from start to finish, except a few parts started to lose me. I mean, the ending was a bit confusing. Anyway, I really liked how Deborah Wiles talks about those sensitive subjects like death and friendship. She did a great job. If your considering reading this book, don't even hesitate. You'll love it!