CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 31. . . .April 11, 2014
When Flowers Bloom and Sparrows Sing is the story of Tante Madeline and her family, Oncle Henri and Cousin Jakey. Tante Madeline is tired, especially of all the work necessary to keep their farm running and their family alive on the edge of the unforgiving Prairie. Tante Madeline begins to dream of her life in the Ukraine before she moved to the Canadian Prairie. She particularly misses the colourful flowers that her mother grew. So one day, Tante Madeline wakes up and decides to change her environment. Her energy is renewed, and she works for days to build a fence through their entire property. She declares that the south side of the fence will, from now on, only be for beautiful things, such as flowers, and following her declaration she only tends her flowers and sits in her garden, forcing Oncle Henri to pick up her share of the farm work. This situation causes enormous stress in their relationship and on Cousin Jakey. Madeline and Henri do not talk for a long time (the story implies months), and eventually Henri retaliates with a fence of his own. It takes an unexpected olive branch to allow for reconciliation and healing in this family.
This story deals with some very mature themes and may only be suitable for older children or adults. The story deals primarily with Tante Madeline and Oncle Henri, with Cousin Jakey being only a minor player. Children reading When Flowers Bloom and Sparrows Sing may need an adult present to explain some of the issues and history that is referenced in the story. Weier references persecution, struggle for survival, serious emotional marriage issues that can affect children, and Ukrainian Mennonite and Metis history. When Flowers Bloom and Sparrows Sing could be a book that would be useful in bringing these themes to life for children learning about them in the classroom. Weier’s brief explanation at the end of the book about the Bolshevik Revolution is illuminating, but more information like this on the other historical references in the story would be helpful as many of the references may not be common knowledge for children. Earlier, Weier wrote Those Tiny Bits of Beans, which utilized the same main characters, and it may have a fuller description of the family's history. The two books may be intended to be read together, but there is some background missing if When Flowers Bloom and Sparrows Sing is read independently.
Recommended with Reservations.
Carla Epp is a librarian with the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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