by Bruce Degen
Pick me a blueberry
What says summer better than fresh blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries? Bruce Degen (whose illustrations you may recognize from the Magic School Bus books by Joanna Cole) creates an homage to a favorite childhood activity: berry picking. A boy in a straw hat and a top-hat-wearing bear embark on a berry-collecting adventure. They ride a canoe filled with blueberries past a tree that grows bread: “Under the bridge/ And over the dam/ Looking for berries/ Berries for jam.” The rhythmic beat of the rhyme provides the perfect chant for a day of picking—“Three berry/ Four berry/ Hayberry/ Strawberry/ Finger and pawberry”—and of course, sampling along the way (“My berry, your berry”).
Degan’s illustrations capture the fluidity of a child’s imagination, melding realistic scenes of a strawberry patch with outlandish images of a makeshift maypole. The top-hatted bear holds an umbrella with long streamers held by gleeful animals bearing baskets of strawberries: “Strawberry ponies/ Strawberry lambs/ Dancing in meadows/ Of strawberry jam.” Blackberries, too, get their moment in the sun (carted by a train), and raspberries form the theme of the “Jazzberry/ Razzamatazzberry/ Berryband/ Merryband” as a brass-playing band of bunnies plays beneath a Berryland jazz stand. There’s even a fireworks finale (“Boomberry/ Zoomberry/ Rockets shoot by”)! It won’t be long before your youngsters memorize this rhyme, and you’ll be chanting these berry-brimming couplets as you fill pail after pail of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or raspberries all summer long.