| An Examination of Children's Literature and Picture Books
Children's Literature and Books Home
Book Reviews for Children's books
Ezra Jack Keats
Children's Book Review-Robert McCloskey-Blueberries for Sal
Few books of any type are so good as "Blueberries for Sal." It is a stunning work of story telling, through its simple yet well placed plot, its beautiful illustrations, and its wonderful text. The pages throughout are done in a dark blue ink , there is no other color in the book, it dosn't need it, rather by choosing to do a single color Rober McCloskey is allowing us to focus on the rich details, and they dynamic compositional elements which tell their own story. The book opens and closes with a picture of little Sal and her mother in the kitchen, the mother is canning blueberries. This very domestic opening is typical of the warmth of McCloskey who loved life, life for living as much as anything else. Ones sees in this opening picture Sal etertaining herself by placing the canning rings on her wrist and a spoon. A simple childlike act which helps to set the stage for Sals obvious child actions througout the books. This is not to be the overly dilligent or angelic girl of so many other books, Sal is a real child figure. She gets into mischief and causes her mom no end of trouble.
After this strong visual opening Sal and her mother head out into the wide open visual pictures with deep backgrounds of a small village and a large wilderness. Their car obviously placed in the background ties them to the nearby village, letting us know this is not a dark wilderness, or a story of fear in the wild, rather this is an outing, to a friendly hill on which all the children of the village likely will soon play.
Sals berry picking very specifically begins with the kuplink of berries dropping in the bucket, this is done to let us know that Sal being a child never really gets very many berries in her bucket, indeed she begins the journy with three berries in her bucket and ends with three. Sal like most children spends her time eating the berries, for her unlike for her mother there is no need to prepare for winter. Sals mother however soon fills much of her bucket, making it easy for Sal to accidently grab a huge handful of berries. The picture that follows this action, of Sal's mother patiently explaining the need to pick berries for winter and Sal listening as she prepears to eat a berry is very well composed, Sal's overall strap hangs loosely showing her ease and noncelont attitude.
At this point Sal and her mother sperate, allowing Sal to sit and eat, meanwhile coming into frame from the opposite direction a mother bear and her come come walking up to eat berries in preperation for winter.
The images that follow are much like the ones which brought Sal to be sitting alone eating berries and they indeed bring the baby bear alone and eating berries. What follows is a further matching of Sal and the baby bear searching for their parents and instead following the others mother, with each mother worried about the fact that they have what could be a dangerous child following them.
The picture choices at this point pull out until at last both the mixed up sets are seen on opposites of the mountain is a single double page spread. McCloskey's skill is shown in this picture as he is able to tweak perspective in a way that is elegant, yet able to force what he needs, for the hill falls back further then one woudl anticipate it should from the figures on it, allowing him to show a much larger panaramic then would normally be possable.
After this wide picture the illustrations draw in tighter again until at last a final panaramic allows both sets of parents reunited with their children, to go home.