It’s huckleberry season in northwest Montana!! These tiny treasured wild berries are only found at higher elevations and are kind of like a really sweet blueberry. They are HUGE with locals and tourists alike. You can make just about anything with huckleberries… syrups, muffins and pies, milkshakes and ice cream, BBQ sauce, jams… and people pay big bucks for these berries! You can earn $65 a gallon for huckleberries and some locals are out there every day bringing home several 5-gal buckets full! We like to gather about 5 or more pounds because we make fruit leather, syrups, and lots of muffins and cakes. So because it’s that time of year for the crazy hunt of huckleberries, this weekend for our weekly #mtnwildstorytime we chose to have a huckleberry storytime ! We read Have You Ever Seen a Bear With A Purple Smile? By Laura Budds, a Missoula local and illustrated by Kadie Zimmerman, a Kalispell, MT local!
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This beautifully illustrated picture book is about a little bunny that is curious about bear’s with purple smiles. It shows a cute bear in the woods enjoying some huckleberries and at the end of the book it talks about huckleberry season and really gets you excited to go foraging for your own.
Later in the evening when there weren’t many people around, my family and I snuck out to our “spot” and gathered huckleberries for a couple of hours. My son is a eat-one-put-one-in-the-basket kind of forager haha! But even still, we came home with over 2 lbs. of hucks. For our evening of foraging, I brought along a blanket and our book so that mid-way through our huck hunt we could plop down and have our storytime, right then and there. It was the most beautiful evening. First I read the book to my son then he read it back to me, munching on the huckleberries and trying to keep our dog out of the berry basket.
The next day we made huckleberry muffins and huckleberry lemon cake…. yuuum! If you live near wild huckleberries, I highly recommend reading this adorable picture book with your children before or while you are huck hunting. It’s such a fun yearly outing to do with your family and this picture book has nice large print for early readers, too.
If you don’t live near wild huckleberries, no worries! I have a simple and fun activity that you can still do with your littles that goes along with the book ! Using tracing paper, I traced the bear on the cover of the book. Then I laid the tracing paper over thick watercolor paper and pressing down firmly on my pencil, traced the bear again. Remove the tracing paper and follow the indented lines of your tracing! I then traced over my pencil lines with black permanent marker.
My son wanted to watercolor his bear but you could have your child use crayon or markers or colored pencils. Once the watercolors are dry, using a few huckleberries that weren’t good to eat, he smashed and smeared the bear’s smile with the berries. You could use blueberries for this or even just purple paint. We dabbed a paper towel onto the smashed huckleberries to pick up any chunks so that just the purple color was left behind. My son was amazed I was letting him smear food on a piece of paper! He loved the process of this craft and asked to make several more.
He added in some fur details with colored pencil and some huckleberry branches. I just love how this one turned out! He wanted to write out the title of the book but realized he didn’t have room so it says “Have you ever a bear with a pu” and he was BELLY LAUGHING that it says “pu”. He decided he wanted to leave it just the way it was. Oh… boy mom life! haha
Do you have wild huckleberries where you live? If so, what is your favorite way to use them?
Happy reading and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where I share a new kids picture book and coordinating activity every weekend! Follow and use the hashtag #mtnwildstorytime. My goal is to help give parents ideas and inspiration on ways to get their children excited about reading. It’s a perfect excuse to carve out a special time each week and sit down as a family to read and get some crafting done.