reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

Jamberry: We Eat it Up


Kindred spirits think alike, which is why not one, but two dear teaching friends gave me copies of Jamberry by Bruce Degen (HaperFestival, 1983) in the months before my daughter was born.

Thank you Gretchen and Opal.

On the first page of this board book one of them wrote, “Louisa…Welcome to the world! May the sun shine its face on you and your days be filled with peace. You are ‘berry’ blessed!”

Louisa, at the very last minute, my daughter did not become; but nonetheless I love this inscription as much as I love this nonsensical, rhyming tale about a bear, a boy and berries.

“One berry/Two berry/ Pick me a blueberry,” reads the text as a boy stumbles upon a bear in a canoe who is picking blueberries off a bush and putting them in his hat. “Hatberry/ Shoeberry/ In my canoeberry,” and the little boy joins the bear in the canoe, which is now overflowing with blueberries.

The nonsense, the rhyming, the bear, the boy and the berries continue. There is a “Trainberry/ Trackberry/ Clickety-clackberry,” as well as “Raspberry rabbits/ Brassberry band/ Elephants skating/ On raspberry jam.”

It’s hard to remember back to when the words seemed silly as I read them. Like a berry soaking in sugar, this book only gets sweeter and sweeter. It ends up…delicious.

And so we eat it. No, not in the, “I put everything in my mouth so why not a book” way of my son.

Rather, in the precise, dainty way of my daughter.

It began one night during a stint when Jamberry was in her bedtime book basket.

My daughter interrupted my reading with her thumb and pointer finger. They were pinching their way to the two-page spread of flying blueberries. Ever so carefully she pretend plucked blueberries and popped them in her mouth. There were a few slow lip smacks…followed by a, “yummmmmm…”

By the time we are finished, with the book and our berries, we are full, and “berry blessed” to have Jamberry in our Picture Book House.

PBH Rating: “Read it Again, Mommy!”

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