Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maple Syrup Children's Book Recommendations

Maple sugaring, or the process of collecting maple sap and turning it into syrup, is a New England tradition hundreds of years old.  My family's tradition of attending   Maple Sugar Days at River Bend Farm Visitor Center in Uxbridge, Massachusetts is only 2 years old.  We may be newcomers to sugaring but we still think it's a lot of fun to celebrate each year.

To prepare us for this year's Maple Sugar Day, I found a free Maple syrup lapbook* online.  We enjoyed learning about the different varieties of Maples that you can tap, equipment used to tap a tree, and various other information.  It's a fun lapbook, though probably better suited for children slightly older than mine.

As usual when planning a field trip, I also brought home a bunch of library books.  This time I have only 4 to recommend to you.


Sugar Snow: My First Little House Books.  Adapted from the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger.  Published by HarperCollins, 1998.

The text in this story is adapted from a passage in Little House in the Big Woods.  One night Pa brings home a bucket full of Maple syrup and several cakes of Maple sugar.  The family enjoys this sweet treat on a snowy day in the Big Woods.

This sweet book is sure to be a hit with Little House fans.  The process of sugaring is kind of glossed over but the illustrations are really nice.  A fun picture book to read with younger children.


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Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall.  Illustrated by Jim Daly.  Published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 2000.

A little girl goes to the sugarbush (stand of Maple trees) with her Grandpa to help tap the trees for sap.  She later waits patiently for the sap to be boiled down into syrup and canned.  As she waits, she enjoys a treat of hot syrup poured over snow.

I love the illustrations in this book!  A note tells us that they are actually oil paintings.  The details in each one are amazing; from the harnesses on the horses to the sunlight shining through the syrup!

I also love the family unity in this story.  Three generations work together to turn the sap into syrup.  Friends and neighbors also help.  This kind of community involvement is hard to come by these days.

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Sugaring by Jessie Haas.  Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith.  Published by Greenwillow Books, 1996.

In this story Gramp and Nora gather sap from the trees and take it back to the sugar shack with the help of two horses.  We learn about the process of evaporating the water out of the sap in order to make syrup.  Meanwhile Nora is concerned that the horses receive a treat for all of their hard work.  Eventually they are given Maple sugar.

While the story is similar, the focus on this book is slightly different.  Only Gramp, Gram and Nora are mentioned.  Also, more detail is given of the actual process, which is helpful if you are wanting to learn how to make syrup.  

The illustrations aren't quite as detailed as the previous book but they are just as delightful.  And most New Englanders will be thrilled to see that Gramps wears a blue baseball cap with a distinct "B" in the middle (that's Boston Red Sox, in case you didn't know).

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At Grandpa's Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney.  Illustrated by Janet Wilson.  Published by Kids Can Press, 1997.

Here we have another story with a Grandpa and a child, this time a boy, as the main characters.  This Grandpa and grandson take time to notice various wildlife around them while tapping the Maple trees; red squirrels, grosbeaks, and nuthatches, to name a few.  Another difference is that the evaporator (giant pot to boil in) is located outside.  Though the story is slightly different, the end result is the same - syrup is made and enjoyed together by the two generations.

I enjoyed this book also.  I liked the inclusion of the wildlife as they gathered the sap.  It helped you have a sense of being outdoors with the characters.  I also enjoyed how the boy works with his grandpa to make the syrup together.  I can easily see the illustrations being drawn from real family photos; though I don't believe they are.
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In all of the library books I read (there were others but these are my favorites), the one theme that ran through all of them is that maple sugaring is a family affair.  It unites generations and gives children a sense of history and tradition.  I love that!  Family heritage is so important for children but so difficult to cultivate in this day when generations are separated by hundreds, if not thousands, of miles.  It's good to read children's books that also value family and tradition.


What ways do you cultivate family traditions across generations?


* For those unfamiliar with lap booking, it's basically mini-books and small activities that you make with information about a specific topic, book, country, etc.  Lap books are fairly popular among home schoolers but I think they would work well for non-homeschoolers also.  Especially for holidays or summertime activities.

Other maple sugaring posts:

2 comments:

Carrie said...

Maple Sugar Season, by Purmell is another one you might like!

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Thanks, Carrie! That book looks really cute and isn't one I've come across. Part of why I blog the books we read is so I have a list to refer to next year. I'll be looking for this one next year. :)

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