Blackberry Banquet

School Library Journal - Sept 2008

A mouse, bluebird, squirrel, fox, and deer are all enjoying blackberries until Bear stops by for his share of the fruit. All scatter in fear, except the bluebird, who swoops in and takes the last berry right off the bear’s paw. The rhyming text and repetition make this an enjoyable read-aloud: “Squirrel skips into the brambles thick./That snacking squirrel gives a great big lick./Slurp! Mmm-mm!/Tweet! Mmm-mm!/Squeak! Mmm-mm!” The illustrations give the fairly realistic animals great facial expressions that work perfectly with the text. The surprise they show when the bear arrives is a comic delight. An especially nice touch is the berry stains on all the faces–except poor Bear’s. The last four pages, “For Creative Minds,” offer information on blackberries, the food chain, native and nonnative plants, how plants and animals help each other, and a smoothie recipe. This section is for a variety of ages and can easily be modified to fit a specific grade level. –Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH

National Wildlife Federation's Your Big Backyard - Aug 2008

The animals of the forest can’t wait to feast on the sweet, plump fruit that has newly sprouted on the local blackberry bush. A mouse squeaks with delight as it reaches for a berry. A deer eagerly chomps away on the fruit. What a wonderful meal everyone is having! Then the animals become startled when they see a bear approaching. But they have nothing to worry about. It just wants to join in on the feast! Perfect for reading aloud, this charming story combines fun rhymes, exclamatory sentences, and zany illustrations.

Feathered Quill Book Reviews - April 2010

The sweetness of the plump wild blackberries are the yummiest food around in the forest, or so it is for all the woodland creatures, especially the mouse, bluebird, squirrel, fox and deer. They happily come upon a great bush filled with lovely berries and merrily chomp away. “Mmm-mm!” say all the creatures as they indulge in the super yummy treat, until...the big black bear arrives, and things get a bit messy.

Blackberry Banquet is a quick-read children's (ages 4-8) tale, that has a bit of humor, cute animal chewing sounds, and rhymes all mixed into one charming book. The vivid, amusing, and detailed illustrations add to the overall positive, energetic tone, while a few Oregon environmental groups verified the accuracy of this book, which not only entertains, but also educates the little ones. The publisher, Arbordale Publishing, has also included a section in the back of this book entitled 'For Creative Minds' and includes such educational materials as quizzes, facts and recipes. Also, further teaching resources can be located online at the Arbordale Publishing website.

Quill says: Get your children and come join the forest creatures as they fill their tummys with yummy blackberries, Mmm-mm! - Lynette Latzko

Epinion Review - February 2009

As the animals gather at their favorite blackberry shrub young readers begin to understand the value of one plant – it’s a one-plant-treats-all shrub in Terry Pierce’s picturebook, Blackberry Banquet.

Told in a cumulative rhyme that builds with each animal until the bear appears, beginning readers will have fun predicting and repeating the cute verses.  There is a place in the forest where plump, sweet purple berries hang shining bright with dew as if waiting for someone to tempt.  “Taste my berries and I’ll feed you” although it doesn’t state that the animal will unknowingly spread the seeds across the land. That is something readers learn later in the educational activities found through Arbordale Publishing’s online resources and the For Creative Minds at the end of the book.

Back at the dangling blackberry, the juicy drupelets are found by a munching mouse who gives a merry sigh, “Squeak! Mmm-mmm!”  A short time later a bluebird lights among the prickly branches and sings, “Squeak! Mmm-mmm!”  Of course a snacking squirrel wanders into the thick brambles for a taste, “Slurp! Mmm-mmm!

The next visitor might surprise children unless they’ve seen their dogs eating blackberries. A fox strolls over and adds his “Yip!” to the cumulative verse. Soon after, a deer appears to chomp on the shrub and we have all of their voices declaring delight with the forest feast until the blackberry-hungry bear appears and they all run away to watch.

This educational book’s fast flowing verse is fun to read but it also supports kindergarten through second grade animal community and food web science lessons and learning standards. For Creative Minds provides information on the blackberry plant and ways humans eat blackberries.  A colorful diagram maps all of the story’s animals in a visual web that helps children see the plant-animal relationships. The author explains that plants are called producers and that animals are consumers. Very simple descriptions describe primary, secondary and tertiary consumers as well as omnivores and decomposers.  My only concern is that the story doesn’t really differentiate between the levels of consumers and young readers could easily assume they were all herbivores.  It’s up to the teacher, or the parent who might be reading this story, to help them make the connection.

Plant and animal dependence and relationships are further described in the back and at related websites provide age-appropriate resources on wild blackberries and all of the vocal animals in this charming little story.  As usual their signature online resources include additional teaching activities, alignment to standards, and quizzes.

Lisa Downey’s illustrations are child-friendly, cute and simple. I recommend this for teachers/librarians in primary grades or parents with children intrigued by forest animals. This charming science teaching tool will please teachers and the surprise ending will delight young readers who will giggle with pleasure unaware that they just learned some valuable lessons about food webs.

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database - June 2008

In this delightful tale, several forest animals scramble to the blackberry bush in a “wee green wood” to feast on delicious berries. A mouse, bluebird, bushy tailed squirrel, fine fox, and stately deer all gather to munch on the delectable fruit. The animals, in the order they arrive, offer a squeak, tweet, slurp, yip, and chomp followed by a satisfied “Mmm-mm” as they snack on the berries. The repetitive build up of sounds in this cumulative tale allows listeners to “read” along after only hearing it a few times. Short text, punctuated with vivid verbs, keeps the pace flowing and the tale interesting. Children who hear it will enjoy acting out the scenes. Bright, realistic illustrations enhance the text. The author’s unique presentation allows readers to come away knowing much about which forest animals dine on berries without feeling they have been taught something. End material includes facts, a recipe and ideas about a food chain, as well as other topics. Teachers can’t go wrong with this entertaining book and the activities that contain math, science, geography, and language arts lessons. - Nancy Attebury

Midwest Book Review - Sept 2008

Blackberry Banquet is a simple, exuberantly rhyming children's picturebook about a number of forest animals who delight in eating blackberries. "Mouse appears and she reaches high. / The munching mouse gives a merry sigh. / Squeak! Mmm-mm!" An extra "for creative minds" section includes fascinating facts about blackberries, including the warning "Do not pick and eat berries unless an adult is positive that they are edible (some berries can be poisonous) and haven't been sprayed with pesticides." These final pages educate young readers about the role of plants in the food web, how animals help plants, and more, including a final warning about blackberry bushes: "In some places, certain types of blackberries are considered to be invasive... Blackberry bushes can become very brambly and sometimes grow near water sources. In some places, this could make it difficult for animals to get to their food or water." A thoughtful children's book that both entertains and educates, highly recommended.

Stories for Children Magazine - Aug 2008

What a charming rhyming book – I loved it! Author Terry Pierce's carefully chosen words are perfect, and the illustrations by Lisa Downey are kid-friendly and hilarious. I especially loved the expressions on the animals' faces. There's a yummy blackberry bush in the forest, and the animals are enjoying eating all the blackberries until . . . well, you'll just have to read this story to find out what happens. This is a very funny book that gets a high five from me for keeping me interested and laughing with each turn of the page. I give this picture book another high five for great text, great illustrations, and great fun while learning! Could you tell I really liked this book?

Watch for my Featured Guest interview with the author in our December 08 issue of Stories for Children Magazine to learn more about this wonderful book.

As with all Arbordale books, there's a section at the end called For Creative Minds that is also available online.  This section contains: "Blackberries", "How Do We Eat Blackberries", there's a recipe for "Blackberry Smoothie", "Plants Are the Bottom of the Food Chain", "Plants and Animals", "How Do Animals Help Plants?" and "Are Plants Always Good?" I especially liked these topics – all were truly wonderful for explaining the relationship between plants and animals, and how they depend on each other. It gives children lots to think about.

I was also pleased to see that experts from various agencies in Oregon were verifying the accuracy of this book.  The blackberries and all the other berries growing wild in Oregon are the best I've ever tasted.  No wonder the forest animals loved to snack on this blackberry bush!

In addition, readers can find cross-curricular “Teaching Activities,” an audio reading, child-friendly “Learning Links,” and comprehension and math quizzes for free at - Gayle Jacobson-Huset, Managing Editor

Chronicles of an Infant Bibliophile - Oct 9, 2010

 I was excited to read this one, since we have some blackberry bushes in our backyard.  Blackberry Banquet describes how a popular blackberry bush pleases the palates of various animals, from a mouse to a squirrel to a bear.  It contains a lot of sound effects, which might amuse your child.  They weren't my favorite for reading aloud, but overall I liked the book.  It would be a fun companion read to blackberry picking (of course) or baking.  The educational section in the back includes additional information about blackberries, a blackberry smoothie recipe (yum), and an introduction to food webs. -Lynn - June 2008

Mmmm ... berry tasty

This snappy rhyming text has all the woodland animals zeroing in on a blackberry bush with its yummy, just-ripe treats. That is, until growly Bear turns up, sending them all scurrying in a farcical cascade of mishaps. But who will get the last berry--and the last laugh?

Pierce keeps the text light, with lots of appropriate onomatopoeia  for all  the animal noises when they're happily munching. Downey's lifelike art captures just a hint of whimsy in their gleeful gobbling. And, of course, there's more info on blackberries and their place in the "food web" and a yummy recipe for blackberry smoothie.

This is one of Arbordale's better outings this season, with a more imaginative and sprightly treatment of a nature topic, but one that doesn't stray far from its factual basis. --Anne Boles Levy

In The Pages - Aug 2008

Who could not LOVE this one!?!?  Blackberry Banquet by Terry Pierce and illustrated by Lisa Downey is all about those wonderful forest animals.  You could pair this with animal sounds, the food chain, plants, even blueberry recipes!  This is another great one -that just makes a great read aloud all on its own!

My Readable Feast - June 2008

Another sign of summer are all the recipes I keep seeing for berry dishes. From the Denver Post food section  to Sunset and Bon Appetit magazines, there have been some terrific new takes on what to do with the summer berry harvest. Best of all, they’re very kid friendly, so I’ll be sharing the recipes (and some good books to go with them) in the next few weeks.

First, to get us in a berry good mood, from Arbordale Publishing comes Blackberry Banquet for children ages four to eight. Author Terry Pierce tells the story of forest animals squeaking, tweeting, slurping, yipping, and chomping over the sweet, plump fruit of a wild blackberry bush. When a bear arrives to take part in the feast, chaos strikes.

Like all Arbordale books, the last few pages feature a “ For Creative Minds” educational section with fun facts and other activities.  (You can also view it online on their website along with Teaching Activities, quizzes: Reading / FCM / Math, and Learning Links.) I learned that even foxes like to eat berries - who knew?

Terry got the idea for her newest picture book while vacationing in Oregon. Blackberry Banquet came to me one day when I was approaching my favorite wild blackberry bush to pick berries for making a pie,” she explains. “As I neared the bush, a flurry of animals fled from it, and it made me start thinking about how we’re not the only animals who enjoy such a sweet treat!” (You can read an interview with Terry on the Arbordale site.)

The For Creative Minds section also includes a blackberry recipe. As we all know, blackberries are pretty expensive. Luckily, we have a large bush growing in our yard!

Kern, CA Reading Association - June 2008

Woodland creatures great and small gather in a wee green wood to snack from a blackberry bush in this appealing rhythmic picture book by Terry Pierce.  Perfect for read-alouds, children will love chiming in during the story’s mounting chorus which builds charmingly with each new blackberry diner. The arrival of a hungry bear provides the story’s amusing climax, and illustrator Lisa Downey wonderfully captures the animals’ expressive faces when greeted by the surprise guest.  Blackberry Banquet is a ripe and juicy treat of a tale which children will happily pick off the bookshelf time and time again for a sweet reading snack.  Mmm-mm! - Rebecca Langston-George, Past President Kern Reading Association

The Reading Tub - June 2008

Summary: Mm-mm-mm. At the edge of the woods sat a blackberry bush, full of ripe blackberries. A mouse spotted it first, followed by a bluebird, squirrel, fox, and deer. When a bear shows up, will there be any left? Learn about animals who eat fruit with this picture book story.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, anytime reading, family reading, playtime reading, read aloud book, early reader

Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 6 to 9

Age of Child: Read with nearly 7-year-old girl.

Little Kid Reaction: "This was too short." Our daughter enjoyed this book, and particularly liked mimicking the animal sounds as they munched on blackberries.

Big Kid Reaction: This is a simply-presented book, almost too simple. I kept waiting for something else. You really don't get the full sense of what the book is trying to teach until you read the Plants and Animals section in the back. The expressions on the animals' faces adds to the book.

Pros: Kids will enjoy this cutely-illustrated story about animals sharing food in the woods.

Cons: There is very little non-fiction information woven into the tale. The reader needs to flip to the back to get some context if they want to 'teach' with the story.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. Although for elementary readers (lots of sight words), if presented as just a story, it is probably better suited for a preschool audience.

Families Online Magazine - July 2008

BLACKBERRY BANQUET by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Lisa Downey, is a feast of words! The animals in the forest take turns eating the delicious blackberries. The text builds as each animal responds with its own sound of contentment. Until …"Bear tramps up - Bear? Where?" The animals all clamor for safety, but bear just want some berries, too! The witty yet suspenseful build-up flows into a satisfying ending. The spirited rhyme and rhythm of the energetic text will delight the read aloud crowd. Each animal's spirit is captured in the colorful, bold illustrations kids will love. The end of the book is chock full of activity ideas, including recipes, and interesting facts about blackberries, animals, and more. The publisher also offers a web site link for more materials parents can use. - Barbara Bietz