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A Taste of Blackberries Paperback – December 28, 2004


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Revised edition (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006440238X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064402385
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #279,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Smith's moving story, a prank ends in tragedy, and a boy must learn to live not only with the loss of a friend, but with the feeling that he could have prevented it. Ages 7-10.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"The sensitivity with which the attendant sorrow and guilt are treated makes this an outstanding book. It blazed the way for the many other grief books that quickly followed, but few have approached the place of honor this one holds."  Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, Sixth Edition, 2006

"Smith deals honestly and emphatically with the range of emotions... the story is not, however, an elegy; but a celebration of the continuity of the life-death cycle." The Atlanta Journal, 1973, Cynthia Westway

"It will be difficult to find a children's book this autumn by a new author as good as Doris Buchanan Smith's A Taste of Blackberries."  Times Literary Supplement, 1975, David Rees

"Rightfully viewed, along with Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, 1977, as one of the seminal children's books on the subject of death."  School Library Journal, Ann Welton, 2002

"An honest, touching story." -- ALA Booklist

More About the Author

Doris Buchanan Smith (June 1, 1934 - August 8, 2002) was an award-winning author of children's books. A TASTE OF BLACKBERRIES, her most recognized work, is about a young boys first grief experience. Published in 1973, with illustrations by Charles Robinson, the book has never been out of print.

In THE READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK (Penguin, Sixth Edition, 2006), Jim Trelease praised Smith's groundbreaking first novel; "The sensitivity with which the attendant sorrow and guilt are treated makes this an outstanding book. It blazed the way for the many other grief books that quickly followed, but few have approached the place of honor this one holds."

"Smith deals honestly and emphatically with the range of emotions... the story is not, however an elegy; but a celebration of the continuity of the life-death cycle." THE ATLANTA JOURNAL, 1973,

"Rightfully viewed, along with Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, 1977, as one of the seminal children's books on the subject of death." THE SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (2002)

"It will be difficult to find a children's book this autumn by a new author as good as Doris Buchanan Smith's A Taste of Blackberries . . . Smith's success lies in knowing how to handle the theme with exactly the right balance of sensitivity, humour and open emotion." THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, 1975

An ALA Notable Children's Book, A TASTE OF BLACKBERRIES was a Newbery Medal finalist, and won the Josette Frank Award, the Georgia Children's Book Award, and the Children's Best Book Prize in Holland (Zilveren Griffel).

Doris Jean Buchanan was born in Washington, D.C. to parents Charles A., and Flora R. Buchanan. At two, she began memorizing nursery rhymes that had been read to her by her mother, and then inventing stories of her own. At nine, her family moved from the nation's Capital to Atlanta, Georgia. Noticing her flair for storytelling, a sixth-grade teacher, Miss Pruitt, to whom A Taste of Blackberries is dedicated, asked Doris if she planned on being a writer one day. The suggestion resonated, and a "closet" writer was born. Her parent's divorced the next year, leaving Doris and her brothers, Bob and Jim, to be reared by their mother. While attending South Georgia College, in Douglas, Georgia, she met R. Carroll Smith. Neither of them completed their courses. Instead they married on December 18, 1954, and started a family.

By the mid-1960s the Smiths had settled in Brunswick, Georgia, and, in addition to their own children, had begun to care for foster children. They raised four of their own children, and cared for dozens of foster children, one from age 12 to adulthood. After her youngest child entered public school, Smith began to focus on her writing. Lacking in discipline at first, Smith began to make time in the day when she could be alone to write. She attended workshops and writers groups as well, which also helped her to learn the craft. Her first completed novel was never published. Her second, A Taste of Blackberries, has become a classic. Before it was published, no other modern children's book had wrestled with its difficult subject--the death of a child's playmate.

In 1977, Smiths marriage ended in divorce. While at a writer's convention in Hawaii, the author met Dr. William J. "Bill" Curtis, an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. They reunited some time later and were married from 1988 until Curtis' death in 1997[9] from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gerhig's disease). Smith, who had previously been diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease, succumbed to cancer in 2002.

Of Smith's 17 books, only A Taste of Blackberries remains in print. Former Executive Editor of Viking Penguin, Deborah Brodie, wrote in Publishers Weekly, "Near the end of the book, when Jamie's mother accepts the basket of blackberries his friend has picked, she says, 'I'll bake a pie. And you be sure to come slam the door for me now and then.' The slam of that door reverberates still."

Customer Reviews

I read this book in 3rd grade.
Steven Edwin Hope
This book mad me cry at the end because of what happens. i would recommend this book to all people no matter what age.
"jackiebird02"
I read this book over 20 years ago, when it first came out.
Elizabeth Scott Leik

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Judy on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read A Taste of Blackberries as required reading in a Children's Literature class in college. It's the story of a young boy and how he deals with the sudden death of his best friend due to an allergic reaction to a bee sting. My mother had died unexpectedly of a heart attack only weeks before I read it. I'm so glad our instructor chose to include this book in our curriculum! It gave me the opportunity I needed to participate in class discussions of the fears and pain associated with death. And I found I was not alone. Many among us had already lost someone dear to them. Death is a univeral experience, and yet one for which I, and many of my classmates had been totally unprepared. I wish I had been exposed more to that particular reality of life as a child and believe that A Taste of Blackberries opens the door for just such discussions between parent and child or between children and their friends. I find, because it is fiction, that it can be an easy way to broach a difficult and frightening subject with children, then encourage a sharing of feelings.
I'd like also to say that this is a fairly short book, written for children. It does not deal with all of the more complex, dark issues and feelings that can be associated with death, nor should it. As I said it's written for kids. I personally found the ending of the book to be realistic, yet uplifting and hopeful.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Julie L. on December 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
I came across this book in my sister's bedroom. She's only 7 and i think one of her teachers recommended it to her. Anyways, i picked it up and began reading it for no particular reason. This is a fantastic book. This will become my 2nd favorite book. I'm only in high school but this book moved me deeply. I'm not ashamed to say that i cried while i was reading it. This is such a touching story and i'm sad that jamie had to die but i liked the way that the book ending. It didn't end up really sad. ( i hate sad endings) Normally i don't like books where people die but in this book it was so pure and simple that i don't mind it. I would recommend this book to anyone it is a wonderful book that everyone needs to read. The most heartwarming part of this book is where the main character offered (silently) to be Jamie's mom's "substitue son." That part made me cry too. The most interesting part of this book is that the name of the character is never revealed. It makes the story seem so much more personal, as if the reader is actually the main character and is experiencing everything along with him. I can't tell you how many times i love this book, but i love this book! Read it or else you are missing out on one of the best books ever written! :-)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Steven Edwin Hope on May 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book in 3rd grade. It taught me to appreciate the friendships that I have because you never know when something is going to happen to your friends. I never knew that a bee sting could kill a little boy. I would recommend this book to anyone no matter the age. I will tell my children about this book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Koto on April 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book in thrid grade and I don't think any of us had experienced a book so sad. This book is based on the death of the narrerator's best friend due to a bee sting. It shows how the narrerator copes with the trajity. It is a very good book I reccomend to kids in grades 3-5.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
I read this book in 2nd grade, and now in 7th it haunts me still. In second grade when I picked it up, something struck a chord, and something about it made me feel so...in my place, if i can say that. Something about the way I kept reliving what I pictured when I read the book, and that one phrase that I remember to this day "Jamie is dead darling,dead darling", made me realize- this was the first book I'de chosen that would fit in my real reading style. I learned a lot about what I like to read by this book, because it so perffectly quenched my thirst for a book. Something about the way the friendship, and thee personalities, and thoughts, and situations, and reaction...it all just clicked with me. So now I'm reading edgy, bittersweet books filled with tragedy, friendship, loss, and emotions, and all because of this book. And you know what? I wouldnt have it any other way.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Scott Leik on July 3, 2000
Format: Library Binding
I read this book over 20 years ago, when it first came out. I was in the third grade. I can still remember sitting in my house, on my front porch, carrying this book around with me and finishing it as soon as possible. Jamie was the kind of kid we all knew and sometimes didn't like. We may have even wished something bad would happen to him as we read the story. But when it does, we are taken aback, and just can't believe that he will never play another trick again. The descriptions of picking and eating the blackberries, of attending Jamie's funeral, of eating food that still tastes good even after Jamie's death, are so very vivid to me today, 26 years later. This book is such a classic. I'm so glad you continue to offer it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Baker on December 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book on a whim one day when I was in the mood for a short, young adult book. I was deeply moved by it. It tells the story of a young boy dealing with his friend's sudden, accidental death. It's told in a straight-forward, plain way, but touches one deeply. If it has any fault at all, it might be that the ending is a little rushed, but that's easily overlooked. Anyone who likes childrens' literature should read this book, as should anyone who likes a lovely, humane story.
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