Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial

Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial

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by Penny Colman
     
 

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Drawing on extensive historical and anthropological research, personal accounts, and interviews with people who work in the funeral industry, Penny Colman examines the compelling subjects of death and burial across cultures and societies. The text, enriched with stories both humorous and poignant, includes details about the decomposition and embalming processes (an

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Overview

Drawing on extensive historical and anthropological research, personal accounts, and interviews with people who work in the funeral industry, Penny Colman examines the compelling subjects of death and burial across cultures and societies. The text, enriched with stories both humorous and poignant, includes details about the decomposition and embalming processes (an adult corpse buried six feet deep without a coffin will usually take five to ten years to turn into a skeleton) and describes the various customs associated with containing remains (the Igala people in Nigeria have a custom of burying people in as many as twenty-seven layers of clothing). Intriguing facts are revealed at every turn; for example, in Madagascar winter was considered the corpse-turning season.

This comprehensive book also includes a list of burial sites of famous people, images in the arts associated with death, fascinating epitaphs and gravestone carvings, a chronology and a glossary, and over a hundred black-and-white photographs, most of which were taken by the author.

Penny Colman writes with compassion and intelligence and humanizes the difficult subjects of death and burial. The result is a powerful look at an inevitable part of life--death.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
In death, as in life, it is the personal and particular that is most poignant. In this remarkable presentation of a fascinating subject, Colman uses her own experiences of death, and the ceremonies, rituals and emotions surrounding it, to lead the reader into an exploration of the place that disposal of human remains has occupied both historically and in our time. Colman does not shy away from grisly detail, but presents it to readers young and old, with sensitivity and a solid contextual grounding. A wealth of additional information is provided in a glossary, a chronology, a list of burial sites of famous people, sources, and a sampling of requests "when I die..." A thorough and compassionate look at some of the realities, and mysteries, of death.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up--Death, the last stage of the human condition, has been underreported and mostly avoided in writing for young people. Colman takes on the task with just the right mix of unblinking realism and sensitivity to varieties of beliefs and practices. The eight chapters explain decomposition, cremation, and burials; describe rituals and ceremonies from many times and places; and show the impact of death and loss on those still living through epitaphs and artworks--some humorous, some poignant. Extensive research is evident throughout the book, from the wide and knowledgeable coverage of cultures and past times to the impressive bibliography. Black-and-white prints, art reproductions, and photographs fill the pages. The author avoids being morbid by using a conversational tone, often referring to her own experiences and relating anecdotes told to her by others. She also balances grim facts about embalming and mourning with accounts of curious and witty gravestones and eccentric burial requests, turning the otherwise dark material into entertaining reading. Lists of significant dates in funereal history (e.g., the beginnings of mound building, the first use of catacombs) and a guide to burial sites of famous people complete the coverage. This is a book that answers many questions and introduces fascinating facts. It should find many readers.--Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
From the Publisher

“Understanding death doesn't necessarily take away our anxieties or fears about our own death, or our sadness about other people's deaths, but it does help us find ways to continue on with our lives.” —Penny Colman

“* A daring and satisfying approach to a difficult subject.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“* Death, the last stage of the human condition, has been underreported and mostly avoided in writing for young people. Colman takes on the task with just the right mix of unblinking realism and sensitivity to varieties of beliefs and practices.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“* This solid, sensitive book answers a wealth of questions young people have but often are too reluctant to ask.” —Booklist, starred review

“The author has a compassionate eye, and she manages to endow her topic with both humanity and humor.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“In death, as in life, it is the personal and particular that is most poignant. In this remarkable presentation of a fascinating subject, Colman uses her own experiences of death, and the ceremonies, rituals and emotions surrounding it, to lead the reader into an exploration of the place that disposal of human remains has occupied both historically and in our time. Colman does not shy away from grisly detail, but presents it to readers young and old, with sensitivity and a solid contextual grounding.” —Children's Literature

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466801356
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
12/15/1997
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
327,117
File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Penny Colman is the author of many award-winning books, among them, Toilets, Bathtubs, Sinks and Sewers: A History of the Bathroom, a New York Public Library Best Book for Teens, and Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Homefront in WWII, an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Best Book for Young Adults, and the winner of the Orbis Pictus Honor Award.

A popular guest speaker, Penny Colman lives in Englewood, New Jersey.


Penny Colman is the author of many nonfiction books, including Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts, Elizabeth Cady and Susan B. Anthony, and Rosie the Riveter. She lives in Englewood, New Jersey.

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