A Time to Gather: A Review of ‘Blueberries for Sal’

“All look to You in hope and You feed them with the food of the season. And, with generous hand, You satisfy the desires of every living creature.” Psalm 145: 15-16

Reading Level: Grades K-1 (according to common core)

Grades 4.1 (according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Review and Comments:

It is that time of year when the promise of a new season is in the air and thoughts of gathering food for winter begin. The blueberries are ripe on Blueberry Hill so Sal and her mother decide it is the perfect time to gather a bountiful harvest.  Mother makes good progress and fills her pail quickly.  Sal however discovers berries are the best when they go directly into her mouth and completely skip her pail. Mother is preoccupied while gathering berries, so tired Sal finally settles herself in the midst of bushes bursting with blueberries.

The blueberries have also attracted a mother bear and her little cub. They search for blueberries on the other side of Blueberry Hill in order to fatten up for the coming winter. Both bears eagerly eat as many berries as they can find.  Little Bear also settles himself amid a few bushes full of berries.

After eating all she can, Sal wanders to the other side of the hill searching for her mother.  Little Bear also searches for his mother after he is finished.  Neither Sal nor Little Bear seem worried or anxious about losing sight of their mothers because eating berries is their objective.  In a cute yet amazing turn of events both Little Bear and Sal end up following the wrong mother.  When the mothers realize they are paired with the wrong children, they wisely back up from “shyness” and then search for their own child.  Each mother reunites with her child and continues searching for blueberries – on their own side of the hill.

This story is perfect not only for K-1 readers but as a read aloud book for preschoolers.  Children find the suspense appealing and the parent-child mix up very funny. The illustrations are not in color, but they are very detailed so the reader will enjoy inspecting each drawing. A few pictures show an antique stove and vintage car which suggests to the reader that the story is about the “olden days”.  Preschoolers will not pay any attention to these hints, but an older child may notice this.

The mother-child experience is a strong theme in this story. Sal and Little Bear learn from their mothers   and yet they are also allowed to explore a bit on their own. They also share more time together at home completing the experience. Setting up a parent-child time as a follow up to this story is the perfect ending.

This book won the Caldecott Honor in 1949. There is a sequel to Blueberries for Sal entitled One Morning in Maine. “This story takes place a few years later and introduces Sal’s father and younger sister.”

Possible Issues:

There are no issues with this book.

Further Discussion:

  • Read other books about blueberries.

Blueberry Mouse by Alice Low

The Blueberry Pie Elf by Jane Thayer

  • Read other books about hibernation.

Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep! By Maureen Wright

Do Not Disturb by Margery Facklam

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson

  • Read a poem about hibernation.

Winter Animals

Winter is cold.

There is snow in the sky.

The squirrel gathers nuts

And the wild geese fly.

 

The fluffy red fox

Has his fur to keep warm.

The bear’s in her cave.

Sleeping all through the storm.

-Unknown

 

Catholic Resources:

  • Blessing of fresh fruit: “Bless, O Lord, these new blueberries, and grant that all who eat of them in Thy holy name may obtain health of body and soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” – Catholic prayer
  • CCC 2500    The practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty. Likewise, truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself. Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos—which both the child and the scientist discover — “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.”

 

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