The Blue Hill Meadows, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Ellen Beier published in 1997 by Harcourt 43 pages
Cynthia Rylant writes warm, sunny relationships like nobody’s business, and this old favorite is brimming with warmth and happiness. If you’re looking for a charming read-aloud for a kindergartener, or a gentle story for an independent reader just launching into chapter books, I think you will love this.
Blue Hill, Virginia, lay in a soft green valley with blue-gray mountains and clear, shining lakes all around. The Meadow family lives here — Sullivan and Eva and their boys, Willie and Ray.
Rylant masterfully spins four stories to take us through one round of seasons with the Meadows — welcoming a lovable stray dog into the household; taking a fishing trip on a golden autumn day; waiting out a blizzard at a friendly teacher’s house; and thinking up a truly original, delightful Mother’s Day gift.
The plots are full of old-fashioned, unhurried living, and plenty of outdoor play, with the sweet, gentle feel of lolling in the hammock on a summer’s evening, counting stars. Rylant’s prose is rich, full of concrete detail and beauty, while Beier’s lovely watercolors usher us into this peaceful countryside.
What I especially love about this book is the generous side-helping of healthy relationships that we find in each chapter. For instance, every October, Sullivan takes a fishing trip with just one of his boys. “Sullivan liked to take the boys fishing one at a time (‘to get to know them on their own,’ he’d say), and this delighted Willie. He adored Sullivan and couldn’t wait to have his father all to himself.” The story of this champion day is full of sunfish and tackle and cold bottles of pop, but equally crammed with heartwarming togetherness.
The main character is Willie, but this book is more akin to The Year of Billy Miller with its pleasant, no-snot-nor-puking kind of male figures. In fact, now that I think of it, these two boys are an awful lot alike. Give this a try for kids who don’t require gobs of action and thrills.