July has arrived and I think it is time for some summery books. Let’s begin with a childhood favorite appropriate for anytime, but most especially for the season of berries. A beautiful berry celebration set in berry-filled rhyme and brimming with colorfully delicious illustrations, here is Jamberry by Bruce Degen, 1983.
Following a unique structure, the story actually occurs within the illustrations while the text serves as a lovely companion, feeling almost like a song or a poem. This format leaves much room for interpretation, imagination, and silliness. Therefore, my plot analysis is going to be sparse and will completely ignore the publisher’s summary on the copyright page as well as I think it takes a lot of the fun away in its pigeonholing of the storyline.
On the opening spread, we spy a little boy apparently stumbling upon a rather friendly looking bear who is picking blueberries with his purple hat while standing in a canoe. Now that is the start of a great story.
The two set off for adventure on a berry hunt.
They encounter strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries galore and many wordplays on berries abound. It is a wild event with ponies and lambs, a train driven by a duck, rabbits creating a band, and elephants skating on raspberry jam.
I remember this book very vividly from childhood and took great delight in the strawberry lambs and the marvelously skating elephants. I’m fairly sure my copy as a kid was a scratch ‘n sniff which added a whole new dimension to the savoring of this book with its scratchable concoctions of berry-related items.
The loose lyrical poetry is a thrill to read aloud and it is just the right length for a bouncy rhythm and moments of just smiling in wonder at the bear and boy’s antics.
The genius behind this fantastic berry world is Bruce Degen, most widely known as the illustrator for The Magic School Bus series written by Joanna Cole. His characters are adorable and the color palette for Jamberry truly lives up to the berries it encompasses. The colors are vivid and honestly look very yummy. I love poring over the varied details like all the berries in the train, the rabbit band uniforms, the ribbons in the dance with the ponies, and let’s not forget the breathtaking wordless spread near the middle of their adventure which I dare not give away.
Degen’s inspiration for this book was taken from his summers spent in rural upstate New York where wild berries abounded and he felt the world was generous and joyful. I love that he shared a part of that with this book as it truly is a joy to experience. I have yet to see an age that does not delight in the wonders of Jamberry.
I hope your summer is berry-filled and awe-inducing on any level remotely as fascinating as skating on raspberry jam. Summer truly can be a “jam jamboree!”