Picture book unit studies were my favorite part of homeschooling when my daughters were young. Nothing we did had more of an impact on them than reading a favorite classic book together. When we found one they loved, we of course read them again and again. Those wonderful dog-eared books became part of who my daughters are today, as young adults.
I realized I might as well be teaching them little things about the topic, the author, or the story if I was going to
loose my mind enjoy reading it 228 times.
One of the most treasured of all our family’s picture book unit studies centered around a sweet story about an adventurous girl and her mom who go picking blueberries together on a mountain slope in Maine: Blueberries for Sal.
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Little did I know, a decade ago, that God would one day call our family to uproot ourselves from Mid-Atlantic suburbia to start a rural New England homestead. Little did I know that my Blueberries for Sal lover would take a walk up a nearby mountain with me, pail in hand, many times each summer and pick her own blueberries to can for winter.
Little did I know how amazingly delicious homemade wild blueberry jam is!
But I DID know we loved this book, so we spent many fun afternoons doing activities relating to this classic children’s book. Today I’m happy to share many of these great resources with you. I truly hope they are a blessing to your family.
SPEND time discussing the details of the final illustration of Blueberries for Sal. One daughter (my now-16-year-old homesteader) recently told me that she would love to sit and stare at it when she was a toddler, wishing she could step into Sal’s kitchen. Today she’s the one who climbs the mountain, makes the jam, and is making plans for a dual major in agriculture and entrepreneurship in college. I mentioned the book recently, when I started compiling this unit study, and she chimed in with her love of that particular illustration. I never realized that that illustration was the beginning inspiration behind her current passion for sustainable living.
TALK about your grandmother’s kitchen, in the mid-1900s, and how it was very different than your own today. (Blueberries for Sal was written in 1948.) Then interview a grandparent about food preparation and preservation when they were children. Video tape or record the interview if possible. My family still has an audio recording from a dozen years ago of an interview my daughters did with each of their four grandparents about their childhood memories. It is a family treasure for sure.
LEARN about canning. If you know someone who still practices the almost-lost art of canning their own food, ask if your family can help their family next fall. They will probably relish the opportunity to spark an interest in sustainable living in the future generation.
WATCH this 45-minute documentary about the history of canning–from the invention in 1809 that changed the way the world ate, to today’s canning technologies that include self-heating and self-cooling cans! Watch the video and discuss how food preservation has stayed the same and how it has evolved since the 1940s.
WORK ON real-life fractions. No picture book unit study is complete without a great baking activity or two. Truth be told, I always counted baking activities as math for the day too. There’s no better way to learn fractions and real measurements. And my almost-grown daughters still joke, “Mom, can I bake today instead of doing my math?”
We did lots of fraction work and measuring when we made our own blueberry jam last summer, but since it’s not the time of year for going to pick blueberries and making blueberry jam, why not make these easy-to-make, delicious-to-eat,freezer biscuits, and slather them with some yummy store-bought blueberry jam? I shared the recipe over on SoulyRested. In fact, I love sharing some of my family’s favorite hand-baked, homemade-goodness recipes on my blog, so please follow me and/or subscribe to my weekly newsletter.
Arts & Crafts
MAKE some of your own blueberries while you wait for the next blueberry season. Print out the blueberry playdough handout in the Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack, make little balls of play dough blueberries, and have fun hearing them go “kaplink, kaplank, kaplunk” in a pail or bowl.
COLOR the momma and baby bear coloring page in the Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack.
EXPLAIN that Robert McCloskey illustrated all of the eight books that he authored, and ask your children to draw one of the scenes from another story written by Robert McCloskey as you read the scene out loud. (Homer Price has many wonderful scenes that would make for rich illustrating options for your children. You can even enjoy this read-aloud of Homer Price.)
EXPLORE your local library, and ask the children’s librarian to help your family find others books illustrated by Robert McCloskey. Enjoy discovering more of his artwork. (Robert McCloskey illustrated 19 books in all, including the 8 that he also authored.)
ENJOY “blueberry picking” in your living room. Write numerals on half and corresponding written words on the other halves of blue paper circles. (For the non-readers, you can draw dots on each circle to correspond with each number, so the non-readers can count the dots.) Hide them for the kids to find and see who uncovers the most matches.
TRY OUT counting with “blueberry” marbles.
SET UP a “blueberry” math center.
DO SOME “blueberry” muffin math together.
USE the “I Can Count Blueberries” work page in the Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack to reinforce counting. Let your child cut out “blueberries” from blue construction paper and glue the circles on the handout to fill their bucket.
WORK ON math symbols with the “I Can Compare Blueberries” work page in the Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack. Your children can, of course, add in sound effects “kaplink, kaplank, kaplunk” as they fill their buckets each time you play.
Health and Safety
TALK ABOUT when Blueberries for Sal was written and how different 1948 was from today. Not only in the way they dressed, what they ate, and how they preserved their food, but also in the kind of dangers they faced. While many people who lived 70 years ago were more likely to face natural dangers–such as meeting wild animals–they were much less likely to face stranger danger. Discuss how you would never ask your child to go “run along” and walk alone in a public mall and why.
STUDY the biblical story of Ruth. Briefly explain that Ruth was a young woman who loved her new husband’s mother, Naomi, who loved the Lord. After her husband died, Ruth left her own family and the false religions of her homeland to make a new family with Naomi and to worship the true God. Unlike Sal, who dangerously ventured away from her mother and met danger, Ruth promised to always stay with Naomi and eventually met Boaz and became the great grandmother of David.
MEMORIZE Ruth 1:16 together… “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.”
USE the handwriting pages in the Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack to help you memorize this verse.
LEARN the parts of a flower, labeling and coloring the Blueberry Flower handout in the Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack.
FILL IN fascinating facts about the diminutive blueberry flower on the flower ID work page that’s included in the Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack.
PRINT OUT my free mammal ID printable and enjoy filling in fun facts you learn about bears. To snag the free mammal ID printable, simply hop over to SoulyRested and sign up for my newsletter. The mammal ID printable is part of the free 7-page ebook download you’ll receive there.
One can truly never do too many picture book unit studies when there are so many wonderful, classic, picture books available. Consider reading some of these great books and making up some fun activities of your own:
Other great children’s books about fruit?
Eating the Alphabet, by Lois Ehlert
How Are You Peeling? by by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban
Other great children’s books about bears?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. (with illustrations by Eric Carle)
The Valentine Bears, by Eve Bunting
Another great children’s books about wild animals (that aren’t so “wild”)?
Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
Other great children’s books by Robert McCloskey?
Make Way for Ducklings — my daughter who loved Blueberries for Sal treasured this book even more! We had to make a special trip to visit Mr. and Mrs. Quack and ride the swan boats in the Boston Common when sweet Kayla was enamored with all things ducklings.
One Morning in Maine — this lovely book is another wonderful classic that shows Sal digging for clams on the little island in Maine that her family calls home and riding on her father’s boat with him to visit the country store.
Discover the classic Blueberries for Sal with you children, and enjoy delving into it a little deeper using some of the many ideas listed here. And be sure to sign up for the free Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack for TEN pages of interactive printables that will help you extend the fun, hands-on learning even further.
The free Blueberries for Sal Printable Pack includes all of these great resources:
A Blueberry Playdough Recipe page
Momma and baby bear coloring page
“I Can Count Blueberries” work page
“I Can Compare Blueberries” work page
The Blueberry Flower labeling work page
The Blueberry Flower answer key
The flower ID work page
A cursive handwriting page
A blank handwriting page
I hope your family enjoys this, and other, great picture book unit studies for many wonderful years to come.