Review of Berry Song

Berry Song Berry Song
by Michaela Goade; illus. by the author
Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp.    g
7/22    978-0-316-49417-5    $18.99

In Goade’s (Caldecott Medalist for We Are Water Protectors, rev. 7/20) latest picture book, set “on an island at the edge of a wide, wild, sea,” a Tlingit grandmother teaches her granddaughter “how to live on the land.” First, they gather what they need from the water. Then they enter the forest to pick berries; the berries’ names serve as an evolving refrain, and the land is also frequently and reverently referenced. As they pick, they sing to the flora, the fauna, and the ancestors: “We take care of the land…As the land takes care of us.” Once they have collected what they need, they head home. After their subsequent feast, they say “Gunalchéesh,” giving thanks for the food. The story ends with the girl passing on the song and her grandmother’s knowledge to her younger sister. Goade’s lush, brightly colored art vividly portrays the landscape. In many of the images, the child and her grandmother are shown intertwined with the forest, with which they are deeply connected. In one scene, the grandmother and granddaughter are the same green as the forest, and their hair and faces are covered by leaves. In another image, we see a totem pole faintly outlined within a tree. An author’s note tells more about Goade’s childhood; her life in Sheet’ká, or Sitka, Alaska; and the song in the book. Endpapers name the berries in both English and Tlingit.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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