Flett, Julie. Wild Berries, Pikaci-Mīnisa. Vancouver: Simply Read Books, 2013. Print.
Clarence and his grandmother go out into the woods to pick wild berries. Together, they sing and fill their buckets and tummies with blueberries. Around them are other woodland creatures, like an ant, a spider and a fox (as well as deer, birds and butterflies depicted in the illustrations). Clarence leaves a small pile of blueberries as an offering to the creatures and says, “Thank you” as he and his grandmother head home. The story concludes with a pronunciation guide for the Cree words and a simple recipe for blueberry jam.
The story takes place in the woods where blueberries grow. The time-period is unclear, though probably contemporary.
Point of View:
3rd person omniscient, though several illustrations focus on Clarence
Grandparent-grandchild relationships, activities in nature, respect for nature
There is only one sentence (and sometimes an additional “sound effect”) on the left pages and illustrations on the right. The Cree-English portions are written in another font and separated a little from the rest of the words, emphasizing the bilingual nature of the story. The simplicity of the text and the detail of the illustrations work nicely together to reflect the characters’ experience.
Quality of Illustrations:
The illustrations have a subtle, painted collage-look to them. Flett used mainly dark colors in the pictures, with deep greens and browns on the trees. Grandmother and Clarence both have dark hair that contrasts with their skin. The use of red throughout the book is striking, reserved for the Cree words, the sun, Grandmother’s skirt and a few small natural details (butterflies, flowers, mushrooms). The illustrations are calm, without agitation, reflecting the peaceful relationship the pair has with nature.
The author is a Cree-Métis author and illustrator. She includes a word of the story on every page also written in Cree, from the Swampy Cree n-dialect of the Cumberland House area. The book was also published in the Cross Lake, Norway house n-dialect of Cree. She includes a note at the beginning of the book and at the end of the book explaining the dialect and her source. She also acknowledges the people and First Peoples organizations that supported her project. The inclusion of the Cree words is primarily what makes this picture book authentic. However, the natural themes are also a nod to the culture of the First Peoples.
This picture book is likely aimed at small children and toddlers to be read to them by the adults in their lives. The art and text are calm and simple and may not appeal to older children as much, though the bilingual component and pronunciation guide add a layer of sophistication.
When I first paged through this book, I did not realize that the Cree culture was the one being represented. The use of red and dark colors and trees made me think of art by Japanese artists that I had seen before. When I noticed the bilingual text, I skipped back to the front and back of the book to investigate the origin of the words. It took the combination of realizing Flett’s background, the Cree words and the natural themes in the pictures to help me fully understand the story. I am unsure how a young child would react because I have little experience with preschoolers and calm books, but I would hope the effect would be the same quiet and happy one that I had reading it.