Nickerson, Sara. The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me
July 21st 2015 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Copy from public library
Missy is having a boring summer, since her friends are going off to camp but her family doesn't have enough money to send her, since her father moved out and is getting remarried. Her brother, Patrick, is entering high school, and would like to earn money for clothes that don't come from the thrift store, so when he sees an ad for children to pick blueberries, he and Missy talk their mother into letting them pick. It's hard work, but Missy enjoys being in the fields and makes friends with the woman who is in charge of the workers, Bev. The blueberry farm has been divided in two after a fight between two brothers, and Moose owns a small patch of very special blueberries that fetch higher prices. His brother would like to get his hands on those berries, and Patrick, along with Shauna and some of the other older teens, spend more time trying to find that patch than they do picking. Hiring the teens doesn't work well, so the owners bring in the machines to pick, but Missy has done so well that she is kept on to help with a variety of other projects. She is upset about her father's remarriage, and acts out a bit about that, but emerges from her summer of challenges a slightly different person.
Strengths: So few young people get a chance to even be outdoors during the summer, so this was a good vicarious thrill! I especially appreciated that the fact that farms don't hire many teens anymore was addressed. Missy's relationships with her family are all realistically, if not flatteringly, portrayed, and Patrick in particular is a perfect example of a teenage boy who is torn between a lot of different things. While Missy's mother is struggling a bit, she is able to function and take care of her children. This was well-written-- I could feel the sun beating down on me and practically smell the dirt and blueberries.
Weaknesses: Missy isn't very likable, and not a lot really happened in this book. Missy doesn't really interact with many children her own age.
What I really think: I would have adored this as a middle school student. It's the berry picking. We picked cherries, strawberries and apples when I was growing up, and the thought of doing it as a summer job had tremendous appeal! This is a quiet book, and it won't set my circulation desk on fire, but I think this will be checked out steadily. Definitely purchasing.