________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 4 . . . .October 14, 2005


Bottled Sunshine.

Andrea Spalding. Illustrated by Ruth Ohi.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005.
104 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55041-703-7.

Subject Headings:
Grandmothers-Death-Juvenile fiction.
Bereavement-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Liz Greenaway.

*** /4



The day was full of sunshine—everything sparkled.

The tear on Sammy's cheek sparkled like a diamond. Sammy sniffed, then wiped his nose crossly.

It was silly to be upset. Holidays had to end sometime.

"Sammy, Sammy!" Grandma called from the cove. Sammy waved.

"Phew! I'm not as young as I was," panted Grandma as she reached Sammy's rock. "But it's nice to sit here again. This was my favorite perch when I was your age."

Sammy eyed Grandma's wrinkles. It was hard to imagine her as a kid, but she must have been.

She knew all about the secret caves, the deepest tide pools, and the best places to fish.

"Saying goodbye to your favorite places?" asked Grandma as she slipped an arm around his shoulder.

Sammy nodded sadly.

"Then it's time to bottle some sunshine to take back with you."

"Bottled sunshine?" exclaimed Sammy. "How do we do that?"

Grandma smiled. "Come with me."

They pulled on old tee-shirts and found baskets.

"You start," said Grandma. "Choose the sunniest blackberry patch on the island."

Sammy and Grandma walked along the lanes. Sammy looked in the all the hedges. There were many blackberry patches but none seemed sunny enough.

They climbed a steep hill. "Stop!" said Sammy.

The sun was hot. It beat down on a tangle of brambles and glinted from a billion berries.

Sammy pointed. "That's got to be the sunniest blackberry patch on the whole island."

Grandma smiled. "Then we'll pick the berries and bottle their sunshine."


Bottled Sunshine tells of the easy friendship between grandmother and grandson as they prepare to say good bye to summer and the fun they've had. When Grandma finds Sammy sad to leave, she suggests that they go and "bottle sunshine"—picking the biggest ripest blackberries and "bottling" them into jam. As they pick, Grandma gently teaches Sammy that bees and prickles are also part of the process:

"Ow!" He sucked his fingers. "Too many prickles."

"Prickles are part of it, " explained Grandma. "They are the bushes' way of protecting the berries from the birds. Prickles help save the juiciest berries for you."

     When Sammy gets home, his jar of bottled sunshine is placed on his special shelf, but it is soon forgotten as friends, school and activities preoccupy him. It is only in mid-winter when his mother receives a phone call that Grandma has died that Sammy remembers their good times and the bottled sunshine that resulted. As he shares his jam with his mother, memories of the summer come back to him—the humming of bees, and the feeling of the sun on his face.

     In this way, award-winning author Andrea Spalding uses the metaphor of jam making to tell a larger story-life is full of prickles and bees, but good things are there for those who look for them. Issues are dealt with gently, never heavy-handedly. The easy relationship between Sammy and Grandma rings very true, as does that of Sammy and his mother later in the story.

internal art     Ruth Ohi's soft focus watercolours beautifully complement this story as the pictures, themselves, seem dappled with sunlight.

     To relegate this story to a section on "grief" would be to miss all the wonderful life-affirming messages for all of us. Bottled Sunshine is a lovely story for children of all ages.

Highly Recommended.

Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller now living in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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