The Funeral

The Funeral

by Matt James
  • critically-acclaimed
  • english-from-canada
  • family-and-friendship
  • from-ontario

Norma and her parents are going to her great-uncle Frank’s funeral, and Norma is more excited than sad. She is looking forward to playing with her favorite cousin, Ray, but when she arrives at the church, she is confronted with rituals and ideas that have never occurred to her before. While not all questions can be answered, when the day is over Norma is certain of one thing — Uncle Frank would have enjoyed his funeral.

This sensitive and life-affirming story will lead young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who have gone before us.


Matt James, author

Matt James is a painter, author/illustrator and musician whose many highly acclaimed children’s books include Yellow Moon, Apple Moon by Pamela Porter (New Mexico Book Award); I Know Here by Laurel Croza (Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award) and its companion volume, From There to Here; and The Stone Thrower by Jael Ealey Richardson. Matt’s illustrations for Northwest Passage, a stunning tribute to the iconic Stan Rogers’ song, won the Governor General’s Literary Award. The Funeral is the first picture book he has written and illustrated.

Matt James, illustrator

(written and illustrated by Matt James)


  • Sweetly, gently funny and poignant at the same time, “The Funeral” is perfectly pitched to a child’s understanding. This uncomplicated story will also charm adults who recognize that being remembered is a gift. - Washington Post Link to review
  • Matt James’s "The Funeral" is an oddly exhilarating story of Norma’s first experience of a funeral. In fact, she approaches it more as a “fun-eral,” as the book’s cover makes clear with the bright acrylic and collaged blossom-laden tree, the exuberant children and the separation of “fun” from “eral” in the title typography. - New York Times Link to review
  • A pitch-perfect introduction to a sometimes-difficult theme. Simply lovely. - Shelf Awareness, starred review Link to review
  • ["The Funeral"] traces with a big heart the way she makes sense of this puzzling event. - Publishers Weekly, starred review Link to review
  • Plenty of picture books about death exist, but in this, James uniquely and playfully captures the particularities of a child’s perspective. - Booklist, starred review Link to review
  • Enveloping and original, James’ authorial debut offers an honest exploration of a difficult and delicate subject. Exceptional. - Kirkus, starred review Link to review


  • Finalist, 2018 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
  • Winner, 2018 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids
  • Winner, 2018 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books
  • Honored Selection, 2019 Ezra Jack Keats Award

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Groundwood Books



rights sold: Australia (Affirm); Netherlands (Gottmer); Sweden (Epix); Korea (Booklight); China (CITIC)

rights available: World, excl. North America

Additional Information

age range: 4-7

number of pages: 40

publication date: 04/01/2018

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book