Welcome to 'Fine Lines', the feature in which we give a wrinkled look at the books we loved as youth. This week, Lizzie Skurnick rereads Doris Buchanan Smith's A Taste of Blackberries', which gave readers everywhere a fear of hives.
In the children's literature pantheon of those who die too soon, there are two major types: the beautiful snoot who's killed off so that her uglier friend can guiltily brood forever upon her own ugliness and jealousy, and a vibrant being who helps a timid friend get bolder just in time to die in some typical act of heedlessness. (Fine Lines readers will here recall Bridge to Terabithia, as well as Constance C. Greene's Beat the Turtle Drum, in which a horse-tamer plunges off a tree to her end.) But I was introduced to death in the late 70s through Doris Buchanan Smith's A Taste of Blackberries, which for some time served as the semester's literary selection for 7-year-olds in my part of the country. (It was a kind of amuse-bouche for a main course of strangulation in Of Mice and Men.) And through the intervening decades, Buchanan's gentle, juice-stained depiction of early tragedy has, for me, set a standard neither Oprah pick nor Pen/Faulkner has ever faintly rivaled.