One of the hallmarks of early summer is the appearance of the strawberry. Usually in late May, but if one is lucky, usually by Memorial Day, these sweet and juicy morsels that beg to be popped into one’s mouth, made into jam or used as the crowning touch to a biscuit shortcake, are available at farmers’ markets and farm stands.
We had our strawberries at our farm stand by Memorial Day weekend. And they continue to be prolific and perfectly sweet with no sugar needed for taste.
At a recent trip to a local book store, I happened upon “The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher” by Molly Bang. This picture book perfectly dovetailed with a blog I had been contemplating on the wordless picture book. For the pre-reader, these picture books that tell a story via pictures alone, allow a pre-reader to enjoy the creativity of telling the story themselves while allowing them to pore over the art for details that enhance their powers of observation and concentration.
The Grey Lady is indeed a shade of grey that allows her to blend in with the background scenery. She is almost indiscernible as she moves from place to place, but the basket of strawberries, purchased and put lovingly into her hands at a market, is not.
It is in full view of a rather odd blue creature, wearing an oversized hat and a lime green, red-lined cape. Called the “Strawberry Snatcher,” for want of a better word, he pursues the elusive grey lady, bent on snatching her strawberries.
One can just hear the excitement in a child’s voice as they relate the tale to a listener. Through bright red-bricked city streets filled with interesting passers by, to a ride on a bus that the snatcher barely misses, the Grey Lady wends her way home through tangles of woodlands and finally arrives home with her strawberries intact and the Snatcher in hot pursuit. But the sweet, juicy red berry prize eludes him.
What has caught his eye and detained him from his quest? Well, something almost as sweet as the strawberries he seeks...blackberries.
Ms. Bang’s book was the winner of a 1981 Caldecott Honor designation, a 1980 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Book for illustration, the Children’s Reviewer’s Choice Award for 1980 and an ALA Booklist Award.
In my pitch for the wordless picture book, let me please mention a name that you must remember. His name is Peter Collington, winner of the 1994 Bologna Book Fair Award and, whom The Chicago Tribune praised as a “master of wordless picture books.” Here are a few of his books:
A Small Miracle
The Tooth Fairy
On Christmas Eve
The Angel and the Soldier Boy
If you read but one of these, please let it be “A Small Miracle.” His telling of an impoverished woman’s belief in the goodness of people and her attempt to prevent a wrong, coupled with kindness rewarded with a “tiny” miracle, is bound to be a tale on your young reader’s vocal radar for quite a while. It is told in 60 some wordless glorious paintings that are exquisitely done.
The picture book, originally published in 1997, has a DVD version of A Small Miracle that is available and came out in 2008. I have seen it, and though Collington’s original storyline is changed to some degree, I do recommend that you read his picture book first. Its simplicity, reverence and mixture of the real with the miraculous, makes the reader feel humbled, to the degree that, perhaps all things are truly possible to those that attempt to give all they can.
The only thing to make it truly complete is a child’s voice telling the story. And that is for you to accomplish. It is worth the hearing…and the telling.
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