The Blue Roses – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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New friends these days so often mean new stories. It’s one of the thrills of belonging to creative communities – sharing in others’ creative works, getting glimpses into their lives through their books. No less than three author friends gave me copies of one of their books whilst visiting Nevada and California last month and I was, of course, not in the last disappointed and will be reviewing all three starting today with one from my dear friend, Linda Boyden.


Written by Linda Boyden, illustrated by Amy Cordova

Published by Lee and Low, 2002, published in 2011 in paperback

Ages: 6-10

Themes: Grandparent/grandchild relationships, death, grief, gardens, native Americans

Linda Boyden’s website:

First Lines/Synopsis:

Momma said on the day I was born my grandfather planted a rosebush under my bedroom window.

Rosalie’s grandpa, on old retired fisherman, spends his days tending his garden and raising his granddaughter. He shows her how to plan a vegetable garden and every spring Rosalie and her grandfather sow seeds that blossom into bright flowers. Her grandfather planted a red rosebush under Rosalie’s bedroom window when she was born, and this is later joined by pink and yellow rose bushes “to make a sunset”. Rosalie wants to plant blue roses, to symbolize the sky, but Papa (her grandpa) explains that roses do not come in blue.

When he dies the following winter, Rosalie struggles to come to terms with the death of this close and gentle relation. She has a vivid dream one night and in it her grandfather appears to her in a garden with a blue rosebush, symbolic of love, memory, and transcendence.

The blue roses make one more appearance at the end of the book!

Why I like this book:

This is a beautiful story of warm family relationships across the generations, of love of loss and dreams. It is a native American story in a very contemporary setting, where the family lives in a small town, where the Mom is the breadwinner. While I imagine that some of the symbolism is specific to native American culture, and this is a multicultural picture book, the setting and sentiments are universal and this is a wonderful story to help any child understand the death of a grandparent. It brings a great sense of closure yet continuity, that death is indeed just a part of life and our loved ones do live on in our hearts. The illustrations are vibrant, vivid and yet fluid, much like the story! The prose is lengthier than typical of today’s picture books, but very lyrical and with some wonderful similes, which make it a beautiful read.

I think the story is especially poignant, as Linda, who is 1/8 Cherokee, told me that it is based on a dream she had after her own grandfather died.

The Blue Roses was Lee and Low’s first New Voices award winner! It also received the 2003 Patterson Prize for Books for Young People.


Helpful page on helping young children deal with the death of a grandparent with a suggested reading list that includes The Blue Roses.

I think group and individual discussion should sensitively follow the reading of this story, as seen fit.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

This is also part of the Paper Tigers Reading the World Challenge 2012. Paper Tigers has been celebrating their ten year anniversary this week, and one of my blogging friends, Myra from Gathering Books did a wonderful ten favorite multicultural books for children guest post for them here.
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29 Responses to The Blue Roses – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Linda Boyden says:

    Thank you, Joanna, for such an insightful review of my first book, merci beaucoups!

  2. This sounds like a sad but meaningful story. I am very close to my grandparents and my great-grandfather (who is 94). I don’t like to think about them dying.

    • Joanna says:

      Erik, wow, how wonderful that your great grandpa as well as your grandparents are still around. I think you should just continue to enjoy every precious moment you have with them.

  3. A beautiful book that touched my heart. As a child growing up there always was a garden of rose bushes under my bedroom window, and I was very very close to my grandparents. I love this must read book, thanks Joanna.

  4. This topic touches families on so many levels. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Love your choice. It has so many wonderful themes, relationships with grandparents, aging, and dealing with grief. Beautiful Native American story. Lovely to have a child plant a rose bush in memory of a loved one. Great choice.

  6. My grandma passed in 1996 and I still miss her, but the stories she told me make her come alive. One of my PB ideas this week is about she and her siblings growing up. This book sounds lovely, Joanna.

  7. What a great choice. Sounds very touching. I’m adding this to my list.

  8. First off – your review today just gave me a wonderful PB idea, so thanks for that! Sounds like a wonderful pick.

  9. Richa Jha says:

    What a poignant story, Joanna. It tackles so many strong but familiar emotions at the same time. Thanks for sharing it here.

  10. Carrie F says:

    This sounds like a beautiful book, Joanna. I’m glad you are including something that is on the longer side — my son is 7 and still loves picture books, but the ones coming out these days are way too short for him, for the most part.

    • Joanna says:

      Carrie, you don’t know how thrilled I am to hear that your son still loves picture books, and yes, for older children I usually find myself picking less recent and therefor lengthier books!

  11. This sounds like such a wonderful book, Joanna — and it is so good to see a book by Linda being reviewed!

  12. Rhythm says:

    This sounds like a very sad, but lovely story. Thanks for sharing.

  13. What a lovely review of a wonderful book! I didn’t know you knew Linda! And although she has participated in Would You Read It, I have yet to read this book! Definitely something I must fix immediately! I think it’s always great to be able to ad a book like this to our list – losing a grandparent is so hard, and a book that helps in any way is a blessing. Thanks Joanna!

  14. This book has so many “hooks.” Grandparents as parents is such a current trend, and I’m not sure many people stop to ponder what might happen when a grandparent who is raising a child dies.

  15. Joanna says:

    Kristen, thank you for pointing out this trend and theme, you are so right, and we need more books on this subject to help children and families, I think.

  16. Iza Trapani says:

    Beautiful review, Joanna! It makes me want to rush out and buy the book. And I will!

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