cover image That Wild Berries Should Grow: The Story of a Summer

That Wild Berries Should Grow: The Story of a Summer

Gloria Whelan. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, $15 (125pp) ISBN 978-0-8028-3754-7

In 1933, Elsa and her parents are suffering through the Depression. Her father has been unemployed for months, and she herself has been so ill that she's missed half of fifth grade. The family decides that Elsa will leave Detroit and spend the summer with her grandparents in the country. The girl dislikes the arrangement--for one thing, Grandmamma always seems so stern--and initially she feels homesick and misses city amusements. She takes up poetry (samples of which begin each chapter), and gradually grows to appreciate nature's sweet wonders--and her kind-hearted relatives. Whelan's lightweight story has little plot, although it touches on serious themes. Economic hardships are widespread, as is ethnic prejudice: Elsa's (Christian) grandparents, who emigrated from Germany well before WW I, describe being victimized and labeled anti-American during that war; one of Elsa's country friends refers to Grandpapa as a Kraut; Grandpapa and Grandmamma worry constantly for Jewish friends still in Berlin. But even with the political subplots, this novel may be too mild to sustain the attention of the intended audience. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)