One of the many things that I love about living in NYC is that summer actually lasts through August. So even though my social media feeds are flooded with friends’ back-to-school pictures and posts, we still have a month of summer left. Hurrah! And I was even more delighted when we recently arrived back from vacation and discovered that our favorite summer fruit was still in season and well-priced. Double hurrah! This calls for a post. A Let’s Read Three post about summer fruit books, of course.
These three are some of our favorite books, that include fruit too. Jamberry would definitely be a friend to this group. Two of them are vintage and most likely classics in some houses. The third is a book that I have meant to post for a couple years now. It’s time. Let’s read some fruit books!
1. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood, 1984
This book has one of the longest, most complicated titles I’ve ever encountered. I’m never quite sure if I should call it just The Big Hungry Bear, or if it prefers the full title. I get the cleverness of it, but still – confusing. Nevertheless, it is a great book.
Depending on how you look at it, there are three or four characters in this story. There is this mouse who has discovered a super ripe, delicious-looking strawberry which he intends to pick for himself. The text is written as the narrator conversing with the mouse, both asking and answering his own questions depending on the body language of the mouse. The narrator spies the mouse acquiring the strawberry and warns him of this big hungry bear who delights in finding and consuming beautiful strawberries. The mouse is terrified. He picks the strawberry, gets it home, disguises it, and then solves the problem the only way the narrator tells him will work.
This book is hilarious and beautiful. I love being the narrator as I am the one reading the words and I always wonder if the narrator could possibly be this big hungry bear tricking his way to a bite of strawberry. I love that it teaches how to read the pictures and especially body language since it assumes you are watching what the narrator is watching and making your own conclusions. It is a perfect interplay between the text and the illustrations, which is the only way that a truly awesome picture book works. One does not work without the other. And the illustrations are positively fantastic. The mouse is adorable, the strawberry is luscious and mouth-watering, and ever detail makes the book perfection. I even marvel at the page where the mouse is trying to shake the strawberry off the bush and the whole illustration of the mouse and strawberry are shaky! How on earth Don Wood illustrated that is a thing of wonder to me. Don & Audrey Wood are well-known and beloved picture book creators, which is even more special since they are a married team.
If you love strawberries as much as we, and this little mouse do, you’ll love this book.
2. Blueberries For Sal by Robert McCloskey, 1948
I’m going to guess that every one is fairly familiar with this book. If not, remedy that immediately. This book is nearly perfect and a definite classic in any picture book lover camp. First off, it is a Robert McCloskey and the ink is blue. Just one color: blue. Blue ink for a book about blueberries. It cannot possibly be more fantastic of an idea, and pretty groundbreaking for picture books in the 40s that already often used one or two color palettes to save money.
My next favorite thing is the end pages. I can stare at them for hours. The details of Sal and her mom’s kitchen is just magnificent. My daughter’s love to study the kitchen and discuss every item, familiar or not. Sal is seen standing on a kitchen chair, “helping” her mom preserve blueberries. It is fantastic. And the best thing about the end pages is that they are not included in the rest of the story via text or pictures. They are just a bonus addition to the story.
The story is about Sal and her mom going to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries. Both of them have their own tin pails. Sal collects berries for her pail accompanied by my daughters’ favorite phrase for me to read… “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” But then she eats them. Her mother sends Sal to her own area to collect, mainly to protect the preserve pail berries from Sal’s hungry reach. Sal finds a spot in a bush and happily sits, collecting and consuming while her mother moves on.
Then we are introduced to a mama bear and a baby bear also eating blueberries up the hill. The little bear grows weary and lags behind, soon losing sight of the mama. Both Sal and the little bear attempt to find their mothers, discovering other wild creatures on the way, and finally sort of mistaking each other’s mother for their own. They are all mixed up. And then the mothers realize and things happily sort themselves right again without incident since, as the text informs us, the mothers are each old enough to be shy of the other creature, despite them being small versions of the other creature.
I love how calm this book is about everything. It is long, being from the 40s, but the text itself is short. It is written very matter-of-factly and quite from the child’s perspective on life, though it doesn’t state that in any way. Only a child would encounter a bear, calmly move on, and tell about it with such nonchalance as the book does. Such an excellent, beautiful book.
3. The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli, 2013
Last in this fruit trio is a perfect ode to watermelons. What more summery fruit could there be? This book came out in 2013, which kind of boggles my mind as I consider it a new favorite, though I have had it since its pre-release. I even got to meet Greg Pizzoli and have it signed when I first arrived in NYC. I adore it. This is Greg’s first book, and thankfully he didn’t stop there as more and more great ones continue to come.
This book features a crocodile who loves watermelon. In the process of waxing lovingly about watermelon, he inadvertently eats a seed and then panics about what will happen to him, imagining all sorts of terrible scenarios. Thankfully the seed hilariously burps back out and even though he swears off watermelon, he thankfully cannot resist his love for it.
That is the simplest way to talk about this book and it does it no justice for its sheer awesomeness. The colors are fantastic and so incredibly… watermelony. Yes, I made that up. Greg’s characters are so excellent in their simple shapes and expressive features. They are instantly endearing. And I adore all the extra things Greg continually puts in as details of the book. His latest books abound with “easter eggs” to discover. In this one, being his first, the bonus parts are pure entertainment like the cleverly designed fruit stickers on the jacket flaps. But the best is the outrageously awesome end pages which look like the inside of a watermelon, and the hardcover book itself which looks like the outside of a watermelon under the dust jacket. Genius designer at work here adding even more layers of fun with his creation.
We all adore The Watermelon Seed and eagerly look forward to every book coming from Greg Pizzoli. Don’t miss them.
And I hope you are having a fantastic summer, whether yours has technically ended already (despite the calendar declaring otherwise), or you have a few more weeks left like we do. Either way, delight in these fruit books that go perfectly with the end of the season fruit still making our mouths water in the stores! Happy fruity reading!