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The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs Paperback – February 27, 2007

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416934898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416934899
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–A literary folk story blending down-home narrative and characters with a sprinkling of magical realism. It is a tale of transformation, of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, of the wonderful things that can happen anywhere to anyone. In Sassafras Springs, MO, in the summer of 1923, Eben McAllister, 11, is fascinated by the Seven Wonders of the World. Pa assures him that there are marvels right under his nose. In fact, the man challenges him to find Seven Wonders in seven days in Sassafras Springs. If Eben can do so, his father will buy him a ticket to visit his cousins in Colorado where he'll be able to see a mountain. On the first day, Eben hears the story of his Sunday school teacher's applehead doll, which saved the woman's life when she was very sick as a child. Then there's the wonder of an old saw that, when played, allows Calvin Smiley to grow more food than anyone around. Cully Pone's bookcase used to belong to a rainmaker who was seeking revenge when he ended a drought but didn't get paid by the town; it has saved a man's life, held the secrets of the universe, and now holds up Cully's house. Most certainly this is a wonder. Eben completes his quest in this old-fashioned tale that could have been set in Bill Brittain's Coven Tree (The Wish Giver [HarperCollins, 1983]). Black-and-white sketches enhance the text and its folksy character. Perfect for reading aloud.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 3-6. "I was only looking for big things . . . but a small thing can be a prize too." That's the transparent theme of Eben McAllister's search for local wonders. The year is 1923, and Eben, who lives on a farm in Missouri, longs for marvels like those in his Seven Wonders of the World book. His father challenges him to find local wonders to rival the famous ones. If Eben can gather seven wonders in seven days, his will earn a train ride to visit relatives in the Colorado mountains. He ekes out time from daily chores to visit the neighbors, each of whom shares a wonder and tells a story. The tall tales are a bit heavy on message and cliche (the mayor, who was a naughty child, "saw the light" and learned that he should use his energy to help folks), but the magical realism of the episodic wonders--an outhouse flying in a cyclone, a musical saw that fends off crop-eating locusts--and Eben's empathetic father and aunt provide grist for a solid read-aloud. Phelan's black-and-white illustrations are a charming accompaniment. Cindy Dobrez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Betty G. Birney lives in Los Angeles, California. Her web site is full of fun Humphrey activities and information.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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The characters and the storyline are well built.
Our adult book club read the book and everyone enjoyed it.
Augusta Fick
This book is so easy to read and you want to read it.
Library Lady

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By belley on July 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am a third and fourth grade teacher. The librarian in our school highly recommended this book. I read it aloud to my third grade class of boys, and they were thoroughly intrigued by the book. There are several vignettes throughout the book, and each of these wonderful depections is written with breathtaking imagination. The characters and the storyline are well built. I would recommend this as an independent reading book for most fourth or fifth graders, and as a read aloud for third graders because it is written in an old-fashioned southern manner, which, in my opinion, is a bit difficult for most third graders to read fluidly by themselves.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Team LitPick on September 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sassafras Springs is just a boring farming town, assumes plucky young Eben McAllister. Until one day, when his pa challenges him to find the Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs - in seven days. If he succeeds, Eben's pa will let him take the trip to Colorado that he has been dreaming of. Aunt Pretty thinks it is a bad idea at first, that Eben should stay home and mind the farm with his pa, but then she agrees because she knows how restless he is. Eben is excited to have found six wonders already - which, by the way, include a life-saving apple ead doll and a real ship in a bottle - when he finds out that a sickness is going through the Colorado town of his destination, and the trip is off. He is very disappointed until Aunt Pretty makes arrangements for him to visit St. Louis instead. Eben is back on track pursuing his goal . . . one more wonder, and he is off to the train station.

Overall, The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs is a delightful, energetic story with likable characters. The book has a well-thought-out plot. I usually like science fiction and fantasy books, so I was not sure if I would enjoy this, but The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs really surprised me. I enjoyed reading it very much. It was heart-warming in some places, and sad in others, and it was interesting to see how Eben comes to realize that even a small town like Sassafras Springs can have wonders of its own. I would recommend this book to anyone, and readers who enjoyed Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder will love this.
Preteen, teen, and young adult book reviews and recommendations.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. G. Seal on June 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
This meandering tale carries in it the qualities of all fine southern fiction: multidimensional characters, clear descriptions of place, and a story to carry them beyond the covers of the book. The illustrations, by Matt Phelan, are done in simple, evokative line drawings, and enrich the reader's imagination without overwhelming.

The story has enough pull for younger readers to stay interested, and is rich enough to capture older individuals as well.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on July 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Parents hear this once a summer: "There's nothing to do." "Nothing ever happens around here." "My life is boring." OK.

This is a beautiful book about the wonder of everyday life, and the surprising stories of the people around us. The cover illustration makes it look like "Because of Winn-Dixie" but this book is SO MUCH BETTER. It is a joy to read a children's book this well-written (but watch out for "hell" and replacement curse words).

And it's by Betty Birney, who wrote the incomparably enjoyable "Humphrey" series.

Parent notes: Written in vernacular ("could of", "would of", "haint"...), this book sports some questionable language: When hell freezes over. Gee whiz. Dang. Dang. Shucks. Why on God's green earth? By doggies. Doggone. By jiggers. Doggone. Lord.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. H. Sweet on July 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book for all ages. I absolutely love the wisdom, flow, perspective, and profound storytelling ability of this author. In seeking life's intrinsic treasures, what better way to question how to measure greatness, meaning, happiness, and wonder than to seek and discover these things hidden in our own back yards?

The story Ms. Birney weaves is so close to my own heart, I could almost swear that I grew up in Sassafras Springs. Though I am sad to say that my dissatisfaction growing up in the country, on the outskirts of a town with seemingly little to offer, did not allow me to realize the wonders surrounding me in my youth until I was well into adulthood. I sincerely wish a challenge similar to that of Eben's had been issued to me growing up so I could have learned at a much earlier age to appreciate what I now recognize I missed. In relation to my own childhood, the moving nature of this story made me weep.

Matt Phelan's illustrations are a wonderful compliment to this book. His drawings are completely classic and fit the story so perfectly, they remind me of Garth Williams' insight for the illustrations of the Little House series and E.B. White's enchanting tales. Though many recent books feature trendier artwork, the purity of Mr. Phelan's style is parallel to the purity of the story he brings to life with his drawings.

This book is destined to be a great classic, perhaps equal in significance to works such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Tom Sawyer. I have already begun a second reading of this story, and I am sure I will reread it many more times during my life as well. I believe it is my favorite of all the new books I have read in the last ten years.
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