We’re getting ready for some serious strawberry picking this week, and I don’t know who’s more excited - the boys or me? To put it all in proper context we’ve been reading (and re-reading) some of our favorite books that look at berries and jam-making.
This first one my husband just happened upon by chance at the library the other day. It’s Jam and Jelly By Holly and Nelly. I think he might have picked it up and thought, “Oh, Beth is going to love this.” But little did he know just how truly wonderful it is.
This story - one of a mom and her daughter who decide to pick wild berries and make jam all summer in order to make the money to buy the girl a winter coat - is as beautifully written as it is illustrated. Filled with clever metaphor and gorgeous imagery, it was not surprising to me to find out that Gloria Whelan is a poet.
I absolutely love the way the book goes through the season as each type of berry ripens and becomes ready for harvest. On each trip, little Holly notices different details about their natural surroundings from insects (”a green beetle so shiny he looks like he turned a light on inside himself,” or “A dragonfly with windowpane wings”), to flowers and woodchucks, to so many different types of birds and their calls. The warbler says, “Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, summer afternoon.”
And, of course, the fact that this story focuses on working hard to achieve a goal is invaluable. Sam and I both love it; Robby not so much, just because I think it’s a little old for him.
A great option for the younger set, though, is Bruce Degen’s Jamberry. It’s fun, rhyme-y, and fantastical as a bear and boy go berry picking through waterfalls of blueberries and ride “Strawberry ponies…dancing in meadows of strawberry jam.” I mean, how can you not love looking at a bear and boy in a big raspberry hot air balloon as rockets that explode into blueberries and strawberries shoot by?
I always make sure to read Degen’s last page where he talks about his childhood memories of berry picking with his family and eating berries with cream and blueberry pies while making batches of blackberry jam. That’s my favorite page.
And of course, one could never talk about berry-picking and jam-making without acknowledging the amazing, the wonderful, Blueberries For Sal. It’s one of our family’s favorites and rightfully so. It makes us just want to hustle along and pick some berries - kuplink kuplank kuplunk!
The notion of picking food and canning it so that “we will have food for the winter” is so foreign to us now, I love that this book has nonetheless become such a classic for parents and children today. It just makes me want to go pick some berries and can them so that we have them during the coldest of days, when nothing is truly in season.
And I’ll admit I am more than a little enamored with mom. My favorite illustration in the book is the one on the cover insert of the two of them in the kitchen canning their berry haul. Look at how peaceful she is with her scorching hot pot of blueberries while Sal stands up on the chair messing with her supposedly sterilized canning rings!
And boy howdy does she hold it together when she’s faced with a bear and realizes her daughter is missing on the mountain!
I’m telling you, Sal’s mom is a rock star. Kuplink!