Saturday, August 1, 2009

Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel

Sometimes after I read a book I particularly like, I go on a search for other books by the same author. This is what happened after I read Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor. I discovered a picture book that is worth writing about.

Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel tells the story of immigrant Miss Bridie who chose to bring a shovel with her across the sea, instead of a porcelain figurine or a chiming clock. The book follows Miss Bridie as a new immigrant who, with the help of the shovel, plants a small garden in the back of her rooming house and grows flowers to sell. The shovel also helps her dig through the snow, plant orchards and dig into the hill for a root cellar. The book follows Miss Bridie's life, and we watch as she experiences life's ups and downs, raises a family and grows old.

The language is lyrical and spare. There are some beautiful turns of phrases, such as: "She sold her fruit and flowers at a stand by the road, where the people and summers just kept passing by." Or after her husband dies: "She planted him a tree and some flowers underneath that come up like a memory with the warmth of every spring."

The illustrations are woodcuts and seem the perfect choice for this picture book, lending it an old fashioned air. Mary Azarian is the illustrator, and is a Caldecott medalist. For more information about her, visit her website.

I don't expect this to be a book that children will pick up on their own. There's not enough action in it. However, this is a wonderful book for a parent to read to a child, or a teacher to read to a class. There's much to discuss and savor afterwards.

BookNosher Activity: Since many of us have an immigrant story in our past, Miss Bridie Chose A Shovel is a perfect jumping off point for kids to learn about their family's stories. If you are a parent, see if you can find something that's been in your family and share a story about it. If you are a teacher, ask the kids to talk to their parents about their family's past. This could be the start of a fabulous show and tell!

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