by Michaela Goade
Little, Brown and Company, 2022. 36 pages.
Review written August 15, 2022, from a library book
This picture book is gorgeous, as you’d expect, since it’s created by a winner of the Caldecott Medal. Instead of illustrating a book from another indigenous person’s traditions, she has written and illustrated this book from her own Tlingit traditions. Here’s how she begins the author’s note at the back:
Like the young girl in this book, I too live on an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea where I grew up picking tléiw, or berries. My home is Sheet’ká, or Sitka, Alaska. It is the same island my Tlingit grandmother, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents called home. All year long I excitedly wait for berry season, for the juicy salmonberries that strum the first notes of berry song, and the cranberries after the first freeze that signal its end. Every time I wander back into the forest, I am a little kid again, spellbound by the magic and joy of berry song.
The text of the picture book is a lyrical adventure of a grandmother showing her granddaughter how to get food from the land — especially the berries. As they pick, they sing the names of the berries — many more kinds than I even knew existed — and thank the land for taking care of them.
The book doesn’t give the tune, but you can hear the music in the words:
Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry.
Huckleberry, Soapberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.
The berries sing to us, glowing like little jewels.
We sing too, so berry — and bear — know we are here.
At the end of the book, in another season, the girl brings her little sister to gather more berries.
This is a lovely celebration of family and traditions and living in harmony with the land.
The endpapers identify all the berries named, with some additional photographs along with the Author’s Note.
Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/berry_song.html
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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.
What did you think of this book?
Michaela Goade has so quickly become one of my favorite illustrators. Earlier this year I read “I Sang You Down from the Stars” and was like THIS IS SOMEHOW EVEN MORE GORGEOUS THAN WATER PROTECTORS I think I have a new favorite illustrator; then I got this one and looked at the cover and thought, Nah, can’t possibly measure up to the others, BUT IT DID. I love her love her love her!
I thought those ones you mention were gorgeous — but somehow it’s this one that has me hooked and her complete and total fan. She’s amazing.