Blackberry Farm Stories Demonstrate the Joys of Differences

by | Feb 23, 2024

I haven’t reviewed a book on the younger end of the middle grade spectrum for a while and so this week I want to write about the Blackberry Farm series by Adele Griffin. 

Books at this level represent some of the first independent reading for young readers, just up from early chapter books. They are illustrated, though more lightly than chapter books and they tend to be longer, but not as long as a lot of books I’ve reviewed lately.

When young readers are in this phase, they often tear through these stories and so it’s handy to have series so they can leap from one book to the next without even having to stop and figure out what to read next.

Although the Blackberry Farm series (“The Becket List” and “All Pets Allowed”) has only two books (so far) it fits this category. The stories are upbeat, the problems are relatively simple, and the small illustrations help move the stories along. 

I really like the characters in these stories, in part because they are not always predictable (like the big boy we think will be a bully but turns out to be a friend). It would be fun to be part of the Branch family, I think. 

The family, Mom, Dad, big sister Caroline, twins Rebecca (she gives herself a new name, Becket, for the move to the country) and Nicholas, moves to the farm where the dad grew up. They all help Becket’s grandma run the country store and Becket’s parents also take over the local vet practice. 

Becket is an extremely likeable character. She is high energy, extroverted and ready for anything. Her twin brother, Nicholas? Not so much. Which is also great. Readers can compare and contrast the siblings without EVER getting the message that it’s better to be one way or the other. We enjoy the differences and Nicholas provides a perfect contrast to Becket. Perhaps I picked up on this theme even more strongly because I had one child who is more “Becket” and another who is more “Nicholas” and I wish I had been as understanding of my “Nicholas” as Becket and her family are!

The first story, “Becket List,” opens with their move from the city to Blackberry Farm. Becket is ready. She is ready for new friends, new routines and new “Beautiful Alerts,” which is what she shouts whenever she sees something that thrills her. Nicholas does not want to leave his neighborhood, does not want new friends and does not want to have new experiences.

The stories focus on Becket, with Nicholas as a contrast, but Nicholas gets plenty of stage time himself. What I like best is that the reader gets to see pluses and minuses of each character’s personality and, most likely, will see bits of themselves in both characters.

The second story in the series, “All Pets Allowed,” resolves Becket’s wish from the first book, to have her own dog. The story opens with Becket and Nicholas turning 10. Becket thinks she’s demonstrated that she is responsible enough to have her own pet and her parents agree. In fact, they agree that instead of sharing one pet, Becket and Nicholas each get to have one. Becket gets a dog, Nicholas gets a cat, but there are more surprises in store for the reader once the new pets come home.

Happily, Griffin has written many other MG stories, so if readers enjoy Becket and the Blackberry Farm stories they can check out Griffin’s other work ( 

Personally, I can’t wait for the next Blackberry Farm story.

This review first was published in 2022 in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette

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