Chall, Marsha Wilson (2000). Sugarbush Spring. New York, NY: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.
It is February in the Finger Lakes, and the maple syrup makers are expectantly tapping trees, running lines, and watching the forecast to see when the first sap collections will be made. My husband is no exception. Any day now I will lose him to the sugarhouse (which luckily I can see from several windows of our home). My kitchen will be overtaken by giant pots, bottles, gauges, and scents of sweetness. And in the evenings, when the kids are snuggled on the couch, sleepily watching DVDs, I will sneak out and join him for the familiar annual sounds of boiling sap and crackling timber.
Marsha Wilson Chall depicts the experience exquisitely in her book, Sugarbush Spring. Through the eyes of a child, from tapping to bottling, a day of sap harvesting and syrup making is revealed in beautiful word pictures:
“I hang a pail beneath each of them and wait. The sun side spills first. Ping…ping…dripple, dripple-dripple.” (p.7)
“All around the sugarbush I measure who is ready, filling up my arms with trees.” (p.8)
But the writing is only the half of it; Jim Daly’s illustrations are nothing short of frameable. Year after year the kids and I pour over the beautiful paintings, enjoying them every bit as much as the story itself.
Maple syruping abounds in children’s literature, as I shared in the unit study I wrote several years ago (see The Old Schoolhouse magazine, Fall 2008 issue, or TOS Digital Products WeE Book “From the Tree to the Table: A Maple Syrup Story”). Miracles on Maple Hill, A Gathering of Days, The Birchbark House, Calico Bush, and Little House in the Big Woods, all include descriptions of the process in various times and places. Sugarbush Spring works especially well as a read aloud for younger children. It goes beyond the technical knowledge of syrup making (although this isn’t neglected) to the beauty of one of God’s gifts- hidden in trees for thousands of years before its discovery.
Enjoy a sign that spring is on its way. If you can, make it to the sugarbush yourself, (and if you come to ours, be sure to wear boots!). If you can’t, find yourself a copy of Sugarbush Spring.