Blueberry Girl

image Bloomsbury Children’s Books Browsing in the fabulous Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop with my six week old daughter snuggled close in her sling I happened across this exquisite book. By page five a combination of exhaustion, hormones and the sheer beauty of both the words and illustrations had me weeping uncontrollably… I bought the book.

Why is it so good? Written as a present for his friend Tori Amos when she was pregnant with her daughter Neil Gaiman has crafted a beautiful prayer for the ‘blueberry girl’. His wishes are for her to dodge the slings and arrows of girlhood and to grow as a strong, independent girl and woman who is ready for anything that comes her way. This poem was never planned as a publication but it struck a chord with so many people that eventually it became a book. Charles Vess completes this with stunning illustrations of all kinds of girls enjoying all kinds of adventures with a variety of animals in tow.

Every girl will see herself in here somewhere and, in my opinion, every girl from 2-92 should have a copy of this on her shelf and read it often. In a similar way to Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss it’s the perfect present for new babies or life events. We read it at my daughter’s naming ceremony and many, many times since. I still cry every single time…

And in school? This is probably more suitable for older classes. As well as discussing the content as is, it could be fun to discuss what the students would wish for a new baby girl and what they would wish her to avoid. As this is essentially a discussion of the pros and cons of being a girl the discussion could go anywhere so be prepared for follow up as required (for example false friends and bullying are touched on in the text).

This book is unapologetically for girls and I think an interesting project for any class would be to write a prayer for a ‘blueberry boy’. Again what are the best and worst aspects about being a boy. I also think the illustrations are so pivotal that it would be interesting to read the book initially without seeing them and then with them and to discuss how they influence enjoyment. Which do you think came first – words or pictures? Could you design alternative illustrations?

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