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Customer Review

on August 19, 2005
This book is eminently suitable to an upper-elementary classroom studying the New England region or the economy of Vermont. Step by step, with one chapter devoted to each part of the maple syrup-making process, the black and white photography and clear text leads you through a wintery world of magic. I sat down and read this book cover to cover and then immediately read it all over again, not wanting to leave the peaceful world of the sugarbush (a grove of maple trees). The crisp and snowy wonderland setting does not mean that sugaring is easy, however; it is intensely hard work spread out over a four week time period. Maple syrup is harvested in March, in that break between coldest winter and earliest spring, when the days are above freezing and brightly lit but the nights are still cold. The direct, strengthening light of the sun warming the trees after the vernal equinox gets their sap flowing and it is from this sap that the syrup is made. That part I knew but everything else about this book revealed a world that was new to me, from the exact temperature sap becomes syrup and what happens if you hit too high or too low, how long the sap will last before it spoils, how the syrup is tested, the precise density it must be to store properly, even how old you have to be before your parents let you Really Help (which is, of course, the part most interesting to small children). This is a world where everyone travels by ski or by sled, which is amazing to me; I can't imagine that depth of winter. The text is as warm and delicious as maple syrup itself: "The sparkling sap, clear and bright, runs like streams of Christmas tinsle. They each take a lick and wonder how so much crystal sweetness can come from a gnarled tree older than all their grandparents put together." Close-up pictures of all steps of the process as well as the exact equipment used makes this book as informative as it is enjoyable. A fascinating look at an age-old process, this book is a must-read for any unit on winter, trees, and the magic of nature.
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