CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 1. . . .September 5, 2014
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2013.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 3-5.
Review by Rachel Yaroshuk.
Grandma likes blueberries ininimina, soft blueberries, juicy blueberries. Clarence likes big blueberries, sour blueberries, blueberries that go P O P in his mouth.
Wild Berries, by Julie Flett, is a charming tale of Clarence and his grandmother picking wild blueberries. There are so many elements that make this an excellent book – from the dual language integration, to the creative type face, the rhythm of the words as they roll off the tongue, the playful use of sound, the opportunities for reader-child interactivity, and the stunning, classic Julie Flett illustration style.
The book begins by reflecting on Clarence’s wild berry picking experience with his grandmother as a baby. Then the book jumps forward to when Clarence is older and is helping his grandma pick berries. There are so many types of berries - soft, juicy, big, sour, and sweet. While picking berries, Clarence spots an ant, a spider, and a fox. Clarence offers the birds some of the blueberries. The simplicity of the plot allows a child-like perspective to the berry picking experience where all details are explored in a fun, playful, sensory way.
The typeface of the font is beautiful to behold in silence, with key words accentuated in creative fonts and the n-dialect of Cree words emphasized in red text. The text also has an enticing rhythm when spoken aloud. The text offers layers of playfulness, encouraging interactions at the bottom of most pages; for example “An ant ‘nik crawls up Clarence’s leg. Tch, tch. It tickles.” (p. 8), inviting a tickle from parent to child. Flett even includes a simple wild blueberry jam recipe at the end of the book, another way to take the book off the page and create a memorable experience between readers.
The author has been very diligent in her translation of the Cree language. The book includes a foreword that explains that, while there are several dialects of Cree, this book was created with the n-dialect of Swampy Cree of the Cumberland House region. The book has also been published in the n-dialect Cree of Cross, Norway House. Following the story is a pronunciation guide, a vowel and consonant guide, and details on the variations of Cree the language. As always, Flett’s book is well-researched and presented in a thoughtful and respectful manner.
Julie Flett has charmed readers with her distinct illustrative style. Once again, she utilizes a neutral landscape palate and bold silhouettes, punctuated with bursts of vibrant red. The illustrations are cheerful and expressive, reflecting both the tone and the activities of the accompanying text.
Flett has created another endearing children’s book with Wild Berries. The combination of textual rhythm, bold illustrations, and playful typeface and storyline make this an instant classic. I am really drawn to this book’s call for interactivity between reader and child – making it ideal for both a lap book and group storytime book.
Rachel Yaroshuk is a Teen Services Librarian at the Burnaby Public Library in Burnaby, BC.
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