Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Awarded the Caldecott Honor in 1949, Blueberries For Sal is a gem of a book. Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, it is set in the late 40s/early 50s and portrays a time when the world was simpler. The inky blue and white illustrations lend an interesting and unique twist to the story, and McCloskey’s story of a rambunctious little Sal captures the impatience and vivacity for life that young children are full of. It is a truly classic children’s book, not only in the fact that it has been loved for generations but also it’s warm and inviting look and feel.

blueberries for sal by robert mccloskey

What Happens in Blueberries for Sal?

Little Sal and her mother set out to pick blueberries on Blueberry Hill, which will then be canned for the winter. Sal’s mother works her way through the blueberry patches as they head higher and higher up, while Sal attempts to pick them, but mostly just ends up eating them as she goes along. Finally, she plops down in a patch to just sit and snack.

Meanwhile on the other side of Blueberry Hill, a mother bear and her cub are going along and eating blueberries, storing up food for the winter. But Little Cub is impatient and does not want to tramp all over to get blueberries, so he plops himself down and begins to eat all the berries he can reach.

When both youngsters are done they go in search of their mothers…but somehow Sal ends up following mother bear, while Little Cub ends up following Sals mother. Each mother is unaware the wrong young one is following them, how will they react when they find out? And more importantly, how will Sal and Little Cub find their way back to their own mothers?

inside cover of blueberries for sal

sal hodling moms hand

eating blueberries

can't stop eating them

The Illustrations/Writing

Do not be turned off by the fact that there is no color in this book. The illustrations are endearing, detailed, grab your attention and hang onto it. It’s truly special in that way. At first  it may appear a bit text heavy for very young readers, but the words are simple and the situation relatable and kids can easily grasp what the story is about.

blueberries for sal illustrations

robert mccloskey illustrations

Keplink, Kerplank, Kerplunk

Every summer when I was growing up my family would go to our cabin in northern Minnesota. It was a lovely place, right up by the Boundary Waters (you could see Canada across the lake), and brimming with patches of wild blueberries. Tiny, dark and packed with a wonderfully wild sweet taste they were one of the most delicious things I’d ever had. Almost every day my parents would get my older sister and I geared up for a long hike and we’d go to pick blueberries. My sister and I would get into an intense competition about who could collect more. I always lost. They were too tasty. As soon as I had enough for a small handful, I would pop them in my mouth. My bucket was dishearteningly empty most of the time, and every time I dropped a blueberry in it would sound kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk.

Perhaps it is because of these memories that I love this book so much, and would recommend it so strongly. I grew up reading it, and to this day it brings back memories of those hot summer days picking berries and giving into the temptation of eating them sun-ripened on the spot. I could always relate to Little Sal with her empty pail sounding kerplink,kerplank,kerplunk every time she dropped something in it. Granted I never did get mixed up and follow a bear instead of my own mother-although I would have thought that great fun I am sure.

Even if you can’t relate to berry picking specifically, you’ll still be able to relate to Sal’s impatience on some level, and those readers who are still children will feel the connection strongly. It is wonderful book, deserving of its Caldecott, that is a worthy addition to any storybook collection or standing on its own.

Does Blueberries for Sal remind you of any childhood memories?

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