Story Time Recommendations with Mrs. Smith: ‘Blueberries for Sal Cookbook’

September 13, 2023

The rediscovery of picture books written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey has been on the rise this year.

In August, a group of children and parents and others who love McCloskey’s books gathered at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine to hear Sarah (Sally) McCloskey read some of her father’s classic books. Among them were “Blueberries for Sal (1948), in which she is the central character; “Make Way for Ducklings (1941), and “One Morning in Maine(1952).

“Blueberries for Sal Cookbook: Sweet Recipes Inspired by the Beloved Children’s Classic” by Robert McCloskey. Photo by Doris Smith

Blueberries for Sal (the fourth book in a series of eight) follows the adventures of a young girl named Sal and a bear cub named Little Bear while hunting for blueberries with their respective mothers on a bright, summer day in “Downeast” Maine. For generations, adults and children fondly remember the “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk” as Little Sal, while sitting in the midst of the berry patch on top of Blueberry Hill, adds the little fruit to a mostly empty pail. She, like most little kids, finds herself eating more berries than she puts in the bucket. What happens when the two mamas and the two young ones unexpectedly meet up with each other?

A delightful companion book to add to the series of treasured collectibles is the “Blueberries for Sal Cookbook: Sweet Recipes Inspired by the Beloved Children’s Classic(Published by Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed, 2023).

Brimming with 30 family-friendly, blueberry-based recipes, this pint-sized book – easy to fit the hands of a youngster – has a variety of culinary classics starring Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry-Apple Crisp, and Blueberry Pie; Breakfast Treats featuring Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake, Berry Blue Smoothie, and Blueberry Pancakes; and Delicious Desserts showcasing Moose Tracks Blondies, Blueberry-Coconut Cupcakes, and No-Bake Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake. Of course, these are just a sampling of the many delicious blueberry-inspired recipes that families can make and eat together.

Sprinkled throughout the cookbook are some of McCloskey’s original illustrations from “Blueberries for Sal” as well as new drawings by Piers Sanford – all done in a dark blue hue, resembling the ripeness of the succulent blueberries. The book also includes information about blueberries, bears, “Blueberries for Sal,” and Robert McCloskey’s legacy.

When I asked friends about their memories of Robert McCloskey’s books, Bedford resident Jenn McClain wrote, “My copy of  ‘Blueberries for Sal’ was falling apart, but still got handed down to my daughters. The image on the cover has a special place in my heart.”

Bill Ingraham, former resident of Bedford, wrote, “They (his children and grandchildren) had audio recordings of ‘Blueberries for Sal’ and ‘One Morning in Maine’ they played in the car while traveling. Some years later, the family regularly went blueberry picking and would remember Sal, especially that she ate most of what she picked. The kids learned they should not follow that model.”

All of the recipes in this sweet, little cookbook are simple and easy to follow. Some of the recipes, such as Blueberry Cookies-and-Cream Milkshake, Blueberry-Rhubarb Parfaits, and the Red, White, and Blue Trifle, are easy for younger ones while other recipes, such as the Blueberry-Lemon Pudding Cake, Blueberry and Chamomile Tapioca Pudding, and Blueberry-Buttermilk Tartlets, will need someone with more kitchen experience. Most of the recipes work well with fresh, frozen, or canned blueberries (unless otherwise noted) and can be enjoyed any time of year.

Blueberries for Sal Cookbook invites its readers to “imagine all the ways Little Sal enjoyed her berries after that memorable day on Blueberry Hill” and to “share Little Sal’s love of blueberries” with others.

Reading “Blueberries for Sal(and other favorites)while munching on freshly-made Blueberry Oat Cookies and sipping Blueberry Lemonade with family and friends makes for a perfect afternoon. By the way, do remember to prepare the Blueberry Overnight Oats to be ready for a healthy and delicious breakfast in the morning.

Doris Smith worked in the Bedford Public Schools from 1967to 2001 as the elementary school librarian covering, at that time, all four schools: Center, Davis, Lane, and Page. She was later the full-time librarian at the Lane School. She also worked for about five years as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Library Association. She continues to pursue her interest in art.

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Doris Smith is an Arts and Cultural Reporter for The Bedford Citizen. She was supported by a grant from the Bedford Cultural Council from December 2022 - June 2023.

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