This whole funeral thing was a bit weird. It was meant to be about Uncle Jack, but he wasn’t even here. Well, his body was in the shiny timber coffin at the front. White flowers lay on top. Photos of him and his cars were propped up against it. But I knew his soul wasn’t in there ‘cause he was dead.
I glanced up. He might be sitting back and watching us from heaven. Maybe Pop was sitting next to him.
Back here on earth, I could see Nanna at the front. She wasn’t crying; she looked empty. Aunt Avril was sitting next to Nanna, sobbing into her hanky.
Max is upset when his Uncle Jack dies. He was Max’s favourite uncle and together they worked on the cars that were Uncle Jack’s pride and joy. Even though everyone knew his heart was dodgy, no one expected him to die just yet. Then Max realises that Nanna has organised for Uncle Jack to be cremated. That’s not what Uncle Jack wanted. But no one else seems to know, and no one is listening to Max. Max gets into enough trouble in a normal day and no one is very impressed when he begins to disrupt the funeral. His brother Charlie is sceptical, Dad gives him a dirty look and he can’t even imagine what Mum and Nanna will say. It looks like it’s all up to Max, no matter what anyone else says or thinks. He’s dead certain what must be done.
Dead Certain is a new offering from Walker Books’ series of short chapter books for upper-primary readers. There’s not a lot funny about a funeral or the premature death of a family member, but Sally Gould manages to infuse ‘Dead Certain’ with plenty of black humour. Readers will simultaneously gasp and giggle as Max does his best to give his favourite uncle the send off he would have wanted. Dead Certain uses first person to good effect. The reader is up close and personal as Max stumbles from one oops! moment to another. It’s easy to empathise with Max, as well as with the reactions of those around him. A very entertaining read recommended for upper primary and early secondary reluctant readers.
Dead Certain, Sally Gould
Walker Books 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.