This is one of the first books that was really heartbreaking for me and being a children’s book, it took a toll on me as a young reader. It’s a story that focuses around two friends, and kind of reminded me of Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen but this is a different kind of tale in many ways. While it does center around two friends, one of which is rather wild and carefree, it allows us a more serious look at a friendship and less of a zany story like Harris and Me.
The title comes from the outings to pick blackberries the boys go on but the book has a very somber and serious ending. (Spoiler ahead.) Jamie, who is the friend of our narrator, ends up being stung by bees and dies as a result of an allergic reaction. From there we see the narrator having to deal with the loss of a friend and how he sees this loss impacting others, like Jamie’s mom.
The book is a sweet children’s books, for what it’s worth, in that you see two friends in a care-free world, and their biggest problem is remembering not to let the screen door slam on their way out. It’s a fun read but the suddenness of the loss was something that stuck with me for a long time, even still a bit to this day.
The tragedy is like the movie My Girl (although this book was written before the film) so it’s a direct and emotional read for anyone that might want to either read a great children’s book or who may need to broach the subject of death. I don’t think this is a book that should be shied away from because of the subject but it’s one that can be used to open an honest, albeit tough, conversation with young readers.
Aside from that, it’s just a great book that I’d highly recommend. I had to read a lot growing up and going through school, as I’m sure most of us did, and while there are some great books out there I’ll never remember reading, this is one that has stuck with me for over two decades.