Posts Tagged ‘maple sugaring’

Sweet Reading

Pictures books can be a great medium to introduce traditions to children, especially those that a child isn’t likely to encounter at all, or experience only partially.

Take Diwali, for instance. My mother’s vivid stories of the festivities when she was a child herself differ considerably from my own Diwali experiences. Living in another country where the festival does not warrant a public holiday, my own rendering of Diwali is so modified, that I suspect my son might never really feel the Diwali spirit, which is very like, and yet very unlike, the mood that prevails during Christmas in the West. I know that a scrapbook of photos and notes could tell the story much much better than I ever can. It would begin on the eve of Diwali, with the shikakai paste and sesame oil being set aside for the next day’s ritual hair wash; with the new clothes being neatly laid out, ready for tomorrow; with buttery goodies being lovingly made, some sweet and others savory; with the traditional deepavali leghiyam being prepared, a digestive intended to offset the effects of over indulgence. Details that would require artful illustrations. And there is a lot more to Diwali than the firecrackers, really.

Maple Syrup Season written by Ann Purmell and illustrated by Jill Weber is much like a scrapbook. The story is set in the Brockwell family’s sugar bush and follows the enthusiastic aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers and cousins as they get busy one maple syrup season tapping, collecting and boiling sap into sweet, thick syrup. There really isn’t much of a plot, except to follow the various members of the family as they harmoniously work to make syrup and reap the sweet rewards of their hard work. It does make the point that making syrup is hard, hard work that requires many hands, many early mornings and late nights in snowy winter and early spring. The illustrations are cheerful and busy with lots of details. My two and a half year old  enjoyed spotting and naming our winter friends, some that he has see in his own backyard: robins, cardinals, blue jays, squirrels, and deer, red foxes, owls and chipmunks. He may not have understood the syrup making process down to the last detail, but he does know that sap comes from trees, which is then cooked to make the maple syrup and treats that he so enjoys. He knows that holes are made in trees and spouts inserted, so that the sap can drip into buckets. When we followed-up our many book-reading sessions with a maple sugaring event on a windy afternoon, he got to see it all: sap, spouts and buckets. He can now make a connection between the food that he eats and the trees that he sees during summer walks

He was not the only one that learned a thing or two. I’ll be the first to admit that Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book. Well, many things. I learned about maple sugaring terminology, while my son learned  a new word: hibernation. He might have also learned to appreciate winter fashion and the different styles of winter hats. Maybe he will reject his blue trapper hat and demand a beanie. Maybe.


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