A young boy tells us, "My cat Barney died last Friday. I was very sad." Barney's mother suggests he think of ten good things to tell about Barney at his funeral. The story details his feelings and, from his perspective, the way his parents and friend Annie deal with the loss, ritual of burial and questions of afterlife (heaven, Barney's whereabouts now).

After the funeral, and after helping his father in the garden, comes a new and comforting understanding--the tenth good thing is that Barney's body becomes part of the cyclical process of nature. Fertilizing trees, grass and "helping grow flowers," the boy tells his mother as she tucks him into bed, is "a pretty nice job for a cat."


Nature, cycles of growth and decay, seasons and pet loss are teachable moments, helpful ways to introduce topics of death and grief. Amply illustrated in simplified scratch black and white pen-and-ink sketches by Erik Blegvad, the parents gently and matter-of-factly talk to, comfort, and include the child in all aspects of Barney's death and funeral. They neither force participation nor take a definitive position on afterlife.

The non-religious mourning elements of food, ceremony, company and reminiscence relate to most traditions, certainly to Christian wakes and to Jewish shivas (see Pearl's Marigolds for Grandpa, annotated in this database). Though, admittedly Barney ate a bird (only once), the emphasis on recalling only the "good" things for a eulogy is a debatable issue.


Illustrated by Erik Blegvad



Place Published

New York



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