JULY 29:

  • Happy birthday Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons, Love That Dog) and Kathleen Krull (Lives of the Musicians).
  • In 1914, transcontinental telephone service begins with the first phone conversation between New York and San Francisco. Read Telephone by Kornei Chukovsky, illustrated by Vladmir Radunsky, translated by Jamey Gambrell; and Tingleberries, Tucketubs and Telephones by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Robert Staermose.
  • Happy birthday NASA, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, established in 1958. Read Orbit: NASA Astronauts Photograph the Earth by Jay Apt, Michael Helfer, and Justin Wilkinson; and Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh.
  • The last Friday in July is National Talk in an Elevator Day. Read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl.

July has been designated National Blueberry Month, to alert the public that this is the best time for fresh blueberries. I hope you can pick up some today—and while you are doing so, take a look at a classic children’s book that celebrates this delicious fruit.

One of the most beloved children’s books of all times, Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal first appeared in 1948. McCloskey was allowed the use of only one color in the book. Most artists would have selected black, but he chose a dark blueberry ink for his art, totally appropriate for the story he wanted to tell. Just like One Morning in Maine, Blueberries for Sal presents another personal look at the McCloskey family in their home setting.

Sal and her mother travel up Blueberry Hill to pick enough fruit to preserve. However, Sal can never quite fill her pail, because the berries taste so good. They both independently encounter a mother bear and cub who are also hunting for their own sweet food. Readers hear the berries “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” as they hit the pail; they can see the berries and almost taste them. McCloskey draws on all the senses as he weaves this simple but totally satisfying story of daily life. The endpapers extend the text, showing Mother and Sal as they preserve blueberries in an old-fashioned kitchen with a Garmen stove. Inevitably, this book brings a request to “read it again.” Parents and teachers have been reading and rereading McCloskey’s Caldecott Honor book for more than six decades.

In 1991 Robert McCloskey made a rare foray away from his Maine home to tour and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Make Way for Ducklings. Because I was editor of Horn Book Magazine at the time, I had a chance to spend most of a day with him in Boston, interviewing him for a radio program. He had been my hero since my childhood—and I was equally enchanted as an adult. I still feel that having time to talk to this amazing and gentle individual was one of the highlights of my career.

Blueberries, by the way, are believed to improve memory. Even if you don’t have the memory of meeting Robert McCloskey, you can share some time with him and his family in Maine, just by picking up a copy of Blueberries for Sal.

Here’s a page from Blueberries for Sal:

Little Bear’s mother turned around to see what on earth could make a noise like kuplunk? 

“Garumpf!” she cried, choking on a mouthful of berries, “This is not my child! Where is Little Bear?”


Originally posted July 29, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Family
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Blueberries for Sal


  1. This one will give you that warm warm feeling inside!

    It is unmissable.

    (Even Merriam-Webster agrees “Unmissable: 1. So good that it should not be missed. 2. Blueberries for Sal”

    Thanks Merriam-Webster you said it all!

    Read Aloud Dad

  2. Thank you for highlighting this book. You have chosen another family favorite as well as library classroom favorite of mine. I think McCloskey’s books (as do Cooney’s) give readers a glimpse into a gentle life which few are still able to achieve and are therefore doubly important. I take my children (now in college and high school) to the same hill in NH to pick blueberries and each time we celebrate the story and I can hear my own voice mirrored in theirs saying “Kuplink, kuplank, Kuplunk” as we pick and eat. I will also share that while out running by myself the other day I came across a bear, it was not quite the “Blueberries for Sal” experience I would have hoped….we both took off in the opposite direction, me running like mad (as if I could outrun a bear!).

  3. Jude says:

    Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine are two of my favorite books from my childhood, both of which I read to my two children when they were small.

  4. Laura says:

    I had forgotten about this! I remember it well. I think I may need to go pick up a copy as we have a huge blueberry patch here on our property.

  5. Katrina says:

    Blueberries For Sal has always been one of my favorite books (in fact, Blueberries For Sal Cobbler was one of the first recipes I posted on my blog!), and that has to be one of my favorite illustrations from it. Thank you for posting this one!

  6. Caren R says:

    AHHHHH!!!!! I LOVE THIS BOOK!! I used to read this book all the time with my neighbor when we would vacation in Boothbay, Maine every summer. The cabin did not have a TV or VCR and so we would read this book until disintegrated. Great book connected with great memories!

  7. G.Perry says:

    I believe the decency and kind spirit Anita saw in McCloskey, comes through in his work, and I’m always surprised how often the children’s books I take into my heart of hearts for life, turn out to have very special authors like McCloskey. It all makes me think there’s a piece of the happiness puzzle in this somewhere.

    I love blueberries, and I love McCloskey’s work.

    (That crunching you year is the walnuts I eat with the blueberries. Yum!)

  8. Anita says:

    Thanks for all your comments. Yes “decency and kind spirit” really does describe McCloskey.

  9. Kathleen T. says:

    Our copy of this book is well-worn. It brings back memories of summers spent taking long walks through the woods with my children when they were little. We sometimes found ripe berries and ate them and talked about the animals we saw along the way. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any bears!

  10. G. Perry says:

    Still like this book, and I still like blueberries.

    We need more creative souls like Robert McCloskey in the world.

    In fact, we need all these kinds of books we can get since I’m starting to think that it’s the children that might heal all the worldwide nutcake adults feuding with each other, not other adults.


  11. I don’t need to eat blueberries to fondly remember meeting Bob in my office when I worked with Scholastic, a place he loved. He won a scholarship through Scholastic Magazines Annual Art Awards on April 30, l932. I treasure my autographed copy of BLUEBERRIES… Interesting to note the book’s cover price, even after its l5th printing in l966 was $3.50.

  12. Anita says:

    Lee and Gordon: Thanks for the comments. Yes, we could use a few more Robert McCloskeys on this planet!

  13. I love to see the comments on Mr. McCloskey, having never met him,
    it is so gratifying to see that he was a kind
    man who shared his kindness of temperment in his art and words.

    We just picked blueberries in Michigan and the “kerplunk” is spot on!

  14. Susannah Borysthen-Tkacz says:

    I can see, hear, smell, and taste my early childhood vacations to Bar Harbor when I read Blueberries For Sal. When my parents read this (and One Morning in Maine) to me, I TRULY thought that McCloskey had put my family in a book. And I still do believe it a little bit…

  15. Katie says:

    What a gem of a book! Timeless and beautiful, it highlights such a joyful, long-awaited delight of summer: picking blueberries. My son, now five years old, surprised me the other day as we begin picking in our backyard patch. “Don’t eat them yet, Mama! We’re saving these!” I thought I’d never hear those words from my berry-loving boy. It seems that he is beginning to grow beyond the sweet, “Sal” phase of eating all that he picks.

    I was interested to hear about the choice of the dark blue ink. It always seemed so appropriate, but now I understand more about why McClosky chose it. I’m so glad it’s not black ink!

    I love the endpapers for the history and tradition, along with the blueberries, that are preserved within.

  16. Tracey says:

    One of my absolute favorites that holds so many memories for me! Every year my family would go on vacation to Acadia National Park and the night before we left my father would read “Blueberries for Sal”. Then as we hiked Cadillac Mountain we would collect blueberries to snack on at the top. Such special fond memories and reading it invokes the salty air and rugged beauty of Bar Harbor.

  17. I love Blueberries for Sala and all of Robert McCloskey. I loved his daughter’s beautiful book, Robert McCloskey: a Private Life in Words and Pictures by Jane McCloskey (the real Sal’s sister) and recommend it highly for fans

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