Marsha Wilson Chall

Sugarbush Spring

In the month of the Maple Sug­ar Moon, the snow’s too wet for angel mak­ing, ici­cles rain from Grand­pa’s porch roof, and some­thing is stir­ring in the woods. It’s sug­ar­bush spring—time to tap the trees, pre­pare the bot­tles, then gath­er round the cook fire to eat chick­en and dumplings, roast marsh­mal­lows, and tell sto­ries while the cold sap heats through, thick­ens, and boils to make syrup.

Awards and Recognition

Ohio Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion Award for Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture, 2002

Resources

  • Mea­sure the ingre­di­ents for one of these maple syrup recipes! Click here or here.
  • Look at real pho­tographs of the process of mak­ing maple syrup in the New­bery Award-win­ning book Sug­ar­ing Time by Kathryn Lasky.
  • Make “Jack-wax” by pour­ing maple syrup over crushed ice. Trace a maple leaf and write words that describe the taste and feel of jack-wax when you eat it.
  • Invite some­one who taps trees to come and talk.

Thanks to Kathy John­son, media spe­cial­ist in Alexan­dria, Min­neso­ta, for these suggestions.

Reviews

This evoca­tive tale illu­mi­nates life on a north­ern farm in ear­ly spring, when “the snow’s too wet for angel mak­ing” and the sap’s on the rise. The girl nar­ra­tor rides with her grand­fa­ther on a horse-drawn sleigh filled with pails to hang on the taps they will soon place in the sug­ar maples. As the two search for prospects, Grand­pa explains how to pick them: one tree is too old to tap (“She’s giv­en and giv­en till she’s near­ly giv­en out”) and anoth­er is too young (“She needs all the sug­ar she makes this year. She’ll be ready when she fills up your arms”). Chall (Up North at the Cab­in) main­tains this folksy yet infor­ma­tive tone through­out her account, mar­ry­ing con­crete infor­ma­tion, such as the 219-degree boil­ing point of the sap, with more atmos­pher­ic descrip­tions of the sug­ar­house itself. Ren­dered in oil on board, Daly’s (Moth­er, I Love You) near­ly pho­to­graph­ic paint­ings endow the pic­turesque inte­ri­or and out­door set­tings with a feel­ing of time­less­ness. The artist’s devo­tion to detail—the gleam of light on fresh­ly washed glass jars that will be filled with syrup and the dis­tinct grain of the wood on the sug­ar­house walls—contributes to the tac­tile qual­i­ty of the vol­ume. (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly)

It is the month of the Maple Sug­ar Moon in Min­neso­ta-time to col­lect the sap from the old fam­i­ly sug­ar bush, and Grand­pa invites his youngest grand­daugh­ter to help him with this annu­al event. It is she who tells this warm, engag­ing sto­ry of how hun­dreds of gal­lons of sap are turned into the pre­cious maple syrup. Grand­pa con­tin­ues to use the old buck­et-drop method of gath­er­ing sap, not the mod­ern vac­u­um-tube sys­tem. The girl also tells about the impor­tant tra­di­tions that sur­round this event: every­one pitch­ing in to help, enjoy­ing Grand­ma’s chick­en and dumplings in the sug­ar­house, and play­ing games until the syrup is ready. The descrip­tive lan­guage draws read­ers into the scene effec­tive­ly. One can almost feel the “maple steam” that fills the sug­ar­house and expe­ri­ence the “cot­ton-can­dy sweet” smell in the air. The some­what ide­al­ized, detailed, bright, dou­ble-page oil paint­ings are equal­ly effec­tive. This book is great as a read-aloud for intro­duc­ing chil­dren any­where to maple sug­ar­ing, or for young read­ers to enjoy on their own. (School Library Jour­nal)

illus­tra­tor, Jim Daly
Harper­Collins, 2000
ISBN 978–0‑68814–9079
ages 4 and up
32 pages

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