"Blueberries for Sal"
by Robert McCloskey
1948, the Viking Press
Paperback by Puffin Books
A Caldecott Honor book
Beloved picture books tend to present writing so spare that a child's imagination must swell to fill them. These stories aren't lectures, they're friendships, requiring willing participation from the second party. And that means that some also prove acquired tastes, pushed aside in repeated disinterest until the moment some mysterious sea change prompts favored status.
We brought home a copy of "Blueberries for Sal" a few weeks ago, and I was charmed to page through its quiet meanderings, laid out in restrained pen-and-ink drawings. Still, the book didn't do much for Rosie, who made clear her disdain through a sudden display of fascination with her toenails.
A week in Maine changed everything.
Maybe it was the extra story time during lazy afternoons at the coastal cabin where we shared with her grandparents. Or perhaps the blueberry-rich banana bread that stained our teeth all week. Either way, the deal must have been cemented that last clear morning, as we lounged in Adirondack chairs watching diamonds bounce off the Sheepscot River, and Rosie's grandmother helped her pluck two small orbs from a last, lonely blueberry plant. Both were instantly stuffed into her mouth.
What could be sweeter?
Little Sal hurried ahead and dropped a blueberry in
her mother's pail. It didn't sound kuplink! because the
bottom of the pail was already covered with berries. She
reached down inside to get her berry back. Though she
really didn't mean to, she pulled out a large handful,
because there were so many blueberries right up close to
the one she had put in...