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.
THE BLUE ROSES
Written by Linda Boyden, illustrated by Amy Cordova
Published by Lee and Low, 2002, published in 2011 in paperback
Themes: Grandparent/grandchild relationships, death, grief, gardens, native Americans
Linda Boyden’s website: www.lindaboyden.com
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.