Deborah Wiles, . . Harcourt/Gulliver, $16 (247pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205113-6

"I come from a family with a lot of dead people," says Comfort Snowberger, introducing her clan, the proprietors of small town Snapfinger, Mississippi's only funeral home. Having attended 247 funerals by age 10, Comfort knows grief, but she's tested by the back-to-back deaths of Great-uncle Edisto and Great-great-aunt Florentine, whom she finds face down in the garden, expired. More trials come as her best friend abandons her while her nebbishy cousin, Peach, clings. Worst of all, when Comfort and Peach get caught in a surprise flood of the creek, Comfort forces Peach to let go of her beloved dog in order to save himself. Despite the three-hanky plot and Comfort's unvarnished view of death ("My parents smell like a mixture of gardenias and embalming fluid"), this is a funny book. Credit Comfort's refreshing naïveté. Her "Life Notices" (instead of obituaries) for the paper include lines such as, "people look forward to dying and coming to Snowberger's for their laying out" (even though the publisher keeps telling her, "Facts, Comfort, not opinions"). Repeating the winning formula she used in Love, Ruby Lavender , Wiles mixes letters, news reports, recipes and lists such as, "Top Ten Tips for First-Rate Funeral Behavior," into the narrative, making a difficult topic go down like lemonade at a picnic. Fans of Ruby Lavender will enjoy the overlapping characters and setting, but what they'll really want is a third book—where Comfort and Ruby get together. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)