Blueberries for Sal

Blueberries for Sal
By Robert McCloskey
Published 1948

The theme for this blog is “for the love of books, old and new” because books are beautiful. The only blogging issue is that there are so many fantastic new books it’s hard to chose which ones to cover, and thus I haven’t been featuring many old favorites.

To remedy that a little, we’re going to be looking at an old book today. It’s one that almost everyone has read, and doesn’t need a new review, so I wanted to explore a bit about why, to me, it’s an enduring classic.

Blueberries for Sal is a parallel story about a little girl and a bear cub who get too tired trying to keep up with their mommas and then get all mixed up. It clocks in at a little over 1000 words, double to triple the amount of words found in an average new book, but is a good example of how the perception of length matters more than the actual length. It uses many of the same devices that new books do to invite repeated readings and encourage excited page turning.

Onomatopoeia: kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.
It’s fun to say, and fun to hear.

Mirroring: Sal and Little Bear have almost the exact same experience.
Readers know what to expect and can engage in the big picture storytelling.

Repetition: reusing phrases and words in different situations.
The mothers say the same things multiple times, the children think “That is surely my mother,” “She was old enough…”
Invites the little readers to learn parts of the story to be able to then “read” alongside an adult.

And humor.
While it’s not meant to make you laugh out loud every page, it makes sure to include kids in the funny situations they relate to like adults not paying the “right” kind of attention or “accidentally” taking too much of a treat when you intended to only take a little.

Overall, Blueberries for Sal is a story that never gets old. It rereads well and also delights new readers.

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