April 10, 2001
Golden Kite Honor Award for Picture Book Text
For Mags and Cody, summer has always meant long golden days with Gramps and Grandma at the farm on the ridge, where the wheat fields stretch to the horizon and bluebirds sing from the old wood fence.
But now Grandma has died and Gramps is selling off his fields one by one, and the bluebirds -- no longer at home in Grandma's abandoned garden of tangled weeds -- are gone. How can Mags and Cody bring them back, bring everything back?
This rich picture book -- the collaboration of a master storyteller and an immensely gifted artist -- offers readers of all ages hope, comfort, and the renewal that can come with great patience and love.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' 2001 Golden Kite Honor Book Award Winner
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5-When Mags, the narrator, and her younger brother, Cody, visit Gramps at the farm, they realize how different things are without Grandma. Although the wheat fields are still present, they belong to someone else. Grandma's garden is "a tangle of thistles and grass." Cody wonders where the bluebirds are and his sister remembers that Grandma said she had a deal with them. She'd grow their favorite foods and, in return, they'd warble in each new day. Mags begins to restore the garden while Cody studies the birds' habits. When he appears to be missing, his grandfather gets a call from Mr. Nelson's general store. Cody has walked the two miles to the store all by himself and has purchased a bluebird nesting box with his own money. Together, Gramps and Cody comfort one another and help build a loving memorial to Grandma. Coupled with the rich text are wheat-colored pages containing hints of painted flowers, nests, or bluebird eggs that blend into the splendid illustrations. A concluding section, "About Bluebirds," states that these birds "were once one of America's most common birds" and notes the address and Web site for the North American Bluebird Society.
Karen Land, Greenport Public School, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ages 6-8. In this moving story, two children create a living memorial for their grandmother who loved gardens and bluebirds. When Mags, summering with her still-grieving Gramps, notices that the bluebirds no longer come to perch on the farmhouse fence, she ventures out to restore order to Grandma's overgrown garden patch, hoping to lure them back. Gramps finds new energy in the project, and even little Cody, Mag's brother, discovers a way to help. Hopkinson, author of ABand of Angels (1998), writes lyrically of wheat fields "washing up against the barn like a golden sea," and memories of Grandma's voice, "soft as a sighing pine," drifting out of the twilit garden. Andersen alternates present and past in impressionistic scenes that catch this heightened tone with long, flowing brushstrokes of glowing blues and golds. Rather than go for the tidy, predictable ending, Hopkinson leaves open the question of whether the bluebirds will actually be attracted--but youngsters will understand that the work, and the feelings behind it, are more important than the ostensible goal. A closing spread of information about bluebirds will allow children to dry their eyes, and to find out more about these once much more common American songbirds. John Peters
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