Blueberries for the Queen

Blueberries for the Queen

by Katherine Paterson, Susan Jeffers, John Paterson

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It's summertime in New England during World War II, and a boy named William likes to imagine at bedtime that he is a brave knight fighting great battles to end the war. But in the morning he is always just William again, not big enough to contribute to the war effort like the rest of his family.

Then a real queen moves in just down the road: Queen Wilhelmina of

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It's summertime in New England during World War II, and a boy named William likes to imagine at bedtime that he is a brave knight fighting great battles to end the war. But in the morning he is always just William again, not big enough to contribute to the war effort like the rest of his family.

Then a real queen moves in just down the road: Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. William's parents explain that the queen has been forced out of her country because of the war. Now William has his chance to do something. It may not be "war work" - it's more like peace work - but that makes all the difference.

Susan Jeffers's dramatic illustrations portray the compelling contrast between William's imagination and the real events in the story, which are based on an actual incident in John Patterson's childhood. Visually stunning, with an evocative, poignant telling, this is the picture-book art form at its finest.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
John and Katherine Paterson, who previously collaborated on Consider the Lilies, and Jeffers (Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening) offer a sweet, fictionalized account of an episode from John Paterson's childhood. William, who lives in the Massachusetts countryside, is still young enough to imagine that knights and magic wands might help defeat Hitler. Then William learns that Queen Wilhelmina and her family, who "had to leave the Netherlands because of the war," have taken up residence nearby. He wonders endlessly about her ("Did she always wear her crown? Or did she have to go about in disguise so her enemies wouldn't know who she was?"), and he envisions himself as a pint-size knight in her service. He asks his father eagerly if picking blueberries is war work. "No," his father replies kindly, "I think it's more like peace work." But William triumphs when a gift of hand-picked blueberries earns him a reception with the Queen. "It will make your mouth rejoice," William tells her, and she agrees. Jeffers switches deftly between William's daydreams and real experiences. As William is about to meet Wilhelmina, a double-page boxed spread imagines her on a throne in splendid raiment, her hand on a pet jaguar. The next page reveals the truth: she's a grandma, with sensible shoes and a black cat, yet just enough details remain the same to tie the scenes together. Only the hardest-hearted will fail to be moved by this skillful presentation of a timeless theme. Ages 4-8. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-It's 1942 and William's mom has just confirmed that a real queen has moved into an estate near their New England farm. Much to his older brother's amusement, William imagines the woman doing her errands in cape and gown. He also frets over his inability to contribute anything to the war effort, so when Dad suggests that picking blueberries is equally important as "peace work," William decides to try and chase some of the queen's worries away by presenting her with a basket of his most impressive berries. A kind lady (Princess Juliana of the Netherlands) invites him into the house and agrees that he should meet the queen. The grandmotherly woman (Queen Wilhelmina) is not what William expected, but he is delighted with the gracious reception he receives and returns home bursting with excitement. Based on John Paterson's actual experience (described in a historical note), this lengthy picture book draws a rather romanticized vision of farm life in the '40s and presents a hopeful story that mitigates the despairing events of the times. The banter between William and his supercilious older brother rings a bit more true than Dad's homespun philosophizing, but the innocence and naivet of the place and time shine through. Jeffers's watercolor-and-ink illustrations perfectly juxtapose scenes of domestic reality with the boy's wistful daydreams of knights and heroic quests. Pair this earnest tale with Shulamith Levey Oppenheim's The Lily Cupboard (HarperTrophy, 1995) as they both share the same time period and rural locale, but are two fascinatingly diverse experiences set on opposite sides of the Atlantic.-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This charming tale is based on an incident that happened to the young John Paterson during the summer of 1942, when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, her daughter, and two granddaughters spent the summer near Lee, Massachusetts. Young William, frustrated that he's "too young to do anything to help win the war," imagines himself as a knight fighting dragons. He longs to see the queen, and visualizes her in a crown and red ermine-trimmed robes. William decides that the delicious blueberries he picks on the family farm might comfort her. Escaping his jeering older brother, he delivers the berries, and even manages to see the queen, who is "disguised like a grandma, but anyone would know she was a real queen." The gouache paintings with ink cross-hatching recall old-fashioned color-separated illustrations. They beautifully juxtapose the magnificent horses, fire-breathing dragon, and royal robes of William's fairytale world with realistic images of cars, planes, and war work-images that will appeal to young readers. (historical note) (Picture book. 4-8)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 11.50(h) x 0.25(d)
600L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Katherine Paterson was born in China, where she spent part of her childhood. After her education in China and the American South, she spent four years in Japan, the setting for her first three novels. Ms. Paterson has received numerous awards for her writing, including National Book Awards for The Master Puppeteer and The Great Gilly Hopkins, as well as Newbery Medals for Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. Ms. Paterson lives with her husband in Vermont. They have four grown children.

Susan Jeffers, a New York Times bestselling artist, has won the ABBY from the American Booksellers Association, a Caldecott Honor from the American Library Association, and the Pomme d'Or de Bratislava. Her work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. Her books, including Brother Eagle, Sister Sky and the perennial bestsellers The Nutcracker and Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, have sold millions of copies and have been published around the world. Susan Jeffers lives in Westchester County, New York.

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