Chosen as one of the "100 Best Canadian Kids' Books of All Time" by Today's Parent!
Listed in the "Best Multicultural Children's Books of 2013" by the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature!
Kirkus Reviews - starred review:
Select words paired to sonorous equivalents in the Swampy Cree dialect highlight this serene picture of a blueberry-picking expedition.
Since before he could walk, little Clarence has accompanied his grandma in season to a certain clearing to pick “wild berries / pikaci-minísa.” Once grandma has checked for bears (“maskwak”), the two set to picking—and eating—with breaks to watch an ant (“eník”) and other wildlife. When their buckets are full, they say “thank you / nanaskomowak” and depart—leaving a handful of berries for the birds. In the illustrations, two figures walk among tall, widely spaced tree trunks through grasses neatly drawn in single, straight brushstrokes to a clearing mottled with low berry plants. A red sun hangs in a white sky that is visually an extension of the white facing page on which the Cree, printed in red italics, draws the eye to the short, widely spaced lines of narrative. Except for a passing fox and the occasional bird, animals are depicted as silhouettes, which adds to the episode’s overall visual simplicity. Flett, an illustrator of Cree-Métis heritage, created a cultural and artistic showcase in Owls See Clearly at Night: A Michif Alphabet (2010); despite the language notes, this offering is a more general one.
A sweet commemoration of a shared experience, presented with care and infused with intimacy. (pronunciation guide, wild blueberry jam recipe) (Picture book. 5-7)
Chosen as part of Librarie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - Oct 17 2013:
Julie Flett is a Cree-Metis Canadian writer and illustrator who's already received the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature for her book Owls See Clearly at Night. This beautifully-illustrated book -- another award-contender for sure -- narrates a simple story of the traditional wild blueberry harvest in English with Cree translations. Also includes a recipe for blueberry jam!
In a quietly perceptive story that includes a handful of key words translated into a Cree dialect, a child accompanies his grandmother into an airy, late summer forest to pick wild blueberries. "Grandma likes sweet blueberries ininimina, soft blueberries, juicy blueberries. Clarence likes big blueberries, sour blueberries, blueberries that go pop in his mouth." Throughout their excursion, Clarence and his grandmother observe woodland animals, including a spider ("kokom-minakesis") spinning its web, a fox ("makesis"), and birds ("pinesisak"). Flett (Owls See Clearly at Night), a Cree-Metis author/artist, offers loose watercolor and collage artwork that combines slate tones with red accents, including the grandmother's skirt, the birds' breasts, and a ubiquitous, low-hanging sun. Abundant white space creates a free and uncluttered landscape; the simple, concrete descriptions, reiterated through the use of Cree words ("Clarence and his grandma pick blueberries for a long time konesk"), provide a sense of composure and calm. Includes a recipe for wild blueberry jam and a pronunciation guide. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)
The Horn Book Magazine:
“When Clarence was little, his grandma / carried him on her back through / the woods to the clearing to pick / wild berries / pikaci-mīnisa. / Grandma carried a bucket and sang.” Fast-forward about five years, and now Clarence follows his grandma with his own bucket and sings along with her. Each double-page spread introduces a single line of text describing the sights and sounds of a small moment—dropping berries in a bucket (tup, tup), finding a spider web (sh, sh), observing a passing fox (rustle, rustle). Each page of text also uses one word in a dialect of Cree (the “n” dialect, known as Swampy Cree), highlighted in red font. The translated word choices are interesting in that they are not always the typical nouns and adjectives but are sometimes verbs and phrases such as long time and so many, carefully selected to enhance the rhythm of the story. The muted earth tones of the watercolor and collage illustrations in browns, grays, and reds perfectly complement the quiet tone of the story, as they offer a sense of the natural world in which Clarence is at home. A pronunciation guide and glossary of Swampy Cree words are appended.
National Reading Campaign:
Julie Flett’s Wild Berries is a feast for the senses. The charming story follows little Clarence and his grandma (ōkoma) into the woods to pick blueberries. Clarence sees a spider web, feels an ant walk up his leg, and listens to the sounds of the forest–all while tasting so many wonderful blueberries that his lips turn blue. Could there be a more perfect afternoon?
Flett’s illustrations are stark and evocative. From Clarence’s proud march when he is old enough to carry his own bucket, to Grandma’s loving arm around his shoulders as they watch the butterflies, the simplest elements convey a wealth of emotion. The colours are muted browns and greens, as befit a forest, but on each page there is a splash of joyful red making one truly feel the beauty of the day.
Likewise, the lyrical text appears simple on the surface, but reaches out on several levels. A Cree word appears on each page, embedded in such a way as to encourage young listeners to repeat it aloud. It is a celebration not only of Cree culture, but also of the idea that communication can take many forms, and we are all richer when we share.
Wild Berries is a thoroughly satisfying experience that goes beyond a good read, engaging heart, mind and spirit. Multiple thematic links including nature, family, multiculturalism and First Nations culture make this a highly recommended addition to any elementary school library. This beautifully designed book also includes a pronunciation guide and a recipe for wild blueberry jam that looks absolutely delicious!"
CM Magazine - 4/4 stars review:
Wild Berries, by Julie Flett, is a charming tale of Clarence and his grandmother picking wild blueberries. There are so many elements that make this an excellent book – from the dual language integration, to the creative type face, the rhythm of the words as they roll off the tongue, the playful use of sound, the opportunities for reader-child interactivity, and the stunning, classic Julie Flett illustration style.
The book begins by reflecting on Clarence’s wild berry picking experience with his grandmother as a baby. Then the book jumps forward to when Clarence is older and is helping his grandma pick berries. There are so many types of berries - soft, juicy, big, sour, and sweet. While picking berries, Clarence spots an ant, a spider, and a fox. Clarence offers the birds some of the blueberries. The simplicity of the plot allows a child-like perspective to the berry picking experience where all details are explored in a fun, playful, sensory way.
The typeface of the font is beautiful to behold in silence, with key words accentuated in creative fonts and the n-dialect of Cree words emphasized in red text. The text also has an enticing rhythm when spoken aloud. The text offers layers of playfulness, encouraging interactions at the bottom of most pages; for example “An ant ‘nik crawls up Clarence’s leg. Tch, tch. It tickles.” (p. 8), inviting a tickle from parent to child. Flett even includes a simple wild blueberry jam recipe at the end of the book, another way to take the book off the page and create a memorable experience between readers.
The author has been very diligent in her translation of the Cree language. The book includes a foreword that explains that, while there are several dialects of Cree, this book was created with the n-dialect of Swampy Cree of the Cumberland House region. The book has also been published in the n-dialect Cree of Cross, Norway House. Following the story is a pronunciation guide, a vowel and consonant guide, and details on the variations of Cree the language. As always, Flett’s book is well-researched and presented in a thoughtful and respectful manner.
Julie Flett has charmed readers with her distinct illustrative style. Once again, she utilizes a neutral landscape palate and bold silhouettes, punctuated with bursts of vibrant red. The illustrations are cheerful and expressive, reflecting both the tone and the activities of the accompanying text.
Flett has created another endearing children’s book with Wild Berries. The combination of textual rhythm, bold illustrations, and playful typeface and storyline make this an instant classic. I am really drawn to this book’s call for interactivity between reader and child – making it ideal for both a lap book and group storytime book.