Children's LiteratureStella lives in Wisconsin and is obsessed with raspberries. She picks them all July, making them into prize-winning pies and preserves. Stella herself is not as sweet as the berries; she never shares with neighbors. How the presence one summer of a berry-stealing black bear (later named Bernie) transforms the indignant Stella into a sweeter, more generous cook makes an amusing tale replete with all the berries, pies, and raspberry jam anyone could possibly eat. Award-winning Dutch artist Koopmans has contributed watercolors in many ways delightful, equally expressive of human and bear emotions, but some anomalies exist. Since the story is specifically set in Wisconsin, one might wish the illustrator had established a sense of place with a more typically rugged forest and river landscape rather than a tamer one so softly suffused with yellow light. Raspberry bushes lack their wicked brambles; a "bucket" named in the text is pictured as a large basket. Although western black bears can be other shades (Bernie is a light honey-brown), in the northeastern states like Wisconsin they are most often black and always have short, tightly curled claws. Still, the story is entertaining, especially Stella's efforts to apprehend the berry thief and their surprising eventual rapport. Her transformation into a smiling neighbor, signaled by her floating dress and a straw hat trimmed with berries, makes for a satisfying conclusion. Don't overlook the frontispiece and the back cover for a glimpse of Stella and Bernie sharing a luscious raspberry picnic. 2004, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 4 to 8.
Barbara L. Talcroft