Welcome back to week six of our Summer Book Club. This week we are thrilled to be reading Berry Song, a beautiful celebration of the land the author knows so well and the deep and abiding wisdom of elders. This book celebrates the bounty of nature and all the treasures that emerge from connection.
There is nothing that says summer more than gathering baskets filled with scrumptious and juicy berries! That is just one of the reasons we are so in love with this gorgeous picture book that not only celebrates berries but is an ode to the land and the wisdom of elders. In Berry Song, Caldecott medalist Michaela Goade’s first self-authored picture book, we travel to a rugged and wild island by the sea where a young girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth including salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and a universe of berries from the forest. Kids will love saying (maybe even singing) these joyful lists of berry names : Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry, Huckleberry, Snowberry, Strawberry, and Crowberry.
As the seasons pass, this sweet grandmother and granddaughter duo sing to the earth as it sings to them. Each page is filled with the gratitude and joy of living in step with the world around them, emphasizing the respect for the land held so dear by the Tlinglit people of southern coastal Alaska.
With each lush and dreamy illustration, children will immerse themselves deep into the magical abundance of the forest, ride the waves of the swirling ocean, and want to devour all of the delicious berry treats!
The soothing and rhythmic text with lots of repetitions and refrains makes for a perfect read aloud and bedtime story. To add even more dimension to this book, Michaela Goade has written a lovely endnote about her connection to the story and her family experiences of berry harvesting. The luminous endpapers feature a dozen different types of berries with both their English and Tlingit names. We know you will cherish this seasonal celebration of the land and our connection to it as much as we do and believe the beauty of this story will connect us all.
Day One: Read & Discuss
On the first day of Book Club, read the story together with your children. Take your time reading to encourage them to look closely at the beautiful illustrations. Invite them to say the berry names out loud with you if they'd like!
Once you have read the story, discuss it together. Encourage your children to ask any questions they might have or share their thoughts. Stories have a way of reminding us about things we may not have connected with yet. Give them this chance to make those connections. If you would like some ideas of things to discuss, we prepared a list of questions:
Are there foods you eat or special dishes that your family prepares that connect you to your ancestors or family tradition? List all of the berries you have eaten. Are there any from this book that you want to try?
Make up your own imaginary type of berry and then describe what it looks like and tastes like? Is it sour, sweet, or a little of both?
What are some of the other things, other than berries, that these characters gather or forage for in this story? Have you ever gathered anything to eat from a tree, the ocean, or a bush?
Imagine if you didn't have a grocery store and had to gather everything you ate from nature. Write a list poem about things that you have gathered from the earth. (A list poem is exactly how it sounds- a list that becomes a poem!) For the last line write a thank you to the earth for something that you love that comes directly from the earth.
Learn about the heritage and traditions of the Tlingit people and try to memorize the Tlingit words that are shared in this book. Read more about the Tlingit people here.
Day Two: Write & Draw
Day Two is all about retelling the story and exploring the ways we connect with it. Take time before diving into the drawing and writing prompts to talk them over and help your children build an idea of what they would like to describe.
Encourage them to discuss something they have learned from an elder. Maybe their grandmother always gets their help to bake cakes, and she's always dropping bits of baking wisdom while you bake together. Perhaps your family has long standing, deep traditions like the family in Berry Song, and the wisdom that has been taught to you has been passed down for generations. It need not be that deep though, perhaps an elder taught you how to fish, and that memory is one you'd love to hold onto.
Day Three: Craft Berry Ink
In honor of Berry Song, we are making a very simple and delicious berry ink craft today. All you need is a selection of blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries, some kind of mashing utensil, water, and a bowl.
Pour your berries (½ cup should be fine) into a medium-sized bowl.
Take your mashing device and smash away until the berries have been reduced to a pulp.
Then pour in some warm water to thin out your ink so it will be a good inky consistency.
Stir your berry ink well and then dip a paint brush or a stick with a pointy edge and then grab some paper and write away! The best thing about this ink is that if you make a mistake or the ink spills, you can lick it up. Edible ink!
To see a list of all Book Club books and activities, tap here.