Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs

Birney, Betty G. 2005. THE SEVEN WONDERS OF SASSAFRAS SPRINGS. Ill. by Matt Phelan. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689871368 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

Stricken with wanderlust after reading about the Seven Wonders of the World, 11-year-old Eben McAllister longs to see the world beyond Sassafras Springs, Missouri. Challenged by his father to see the “marvels right under your own nose,” Eben will be rewarded with his dream, a train trip to visit relatives in Colorado if he can find seven wonders in seven days. Eben wonders what could possibly compete with statues, pyramids, and temples in a town like Sassafras Springs, that doesn’t even rate a dot on the map.

Birney relates the quest day by day, with each person Eben contacts telling the story of their “wonder” in their own words. The folksy style of the storytelling transports the reader to the dusty fields of Missouri in the 1920’s, when summer meant time off from school for children, but not time off from farming. Whelan’s pencil and ink drawings emphasize the hardscrabble feel of the struggling farming community, while bringing each “wonder” to life. “I sat there, thinking about the Wonders as the evening shadows settled over the barnyard. A doll. A bookcase. A saw. A table. A ship in a bottle. A woven cloth. They were all as unimpressive and ordinary as Sassafras Springs, yet each in its own way was a one-of-a-kind marvel.” Birney injects just enough fantasy into each person’s story to keep readers wondering if it is actually the item that is so special, or the people involved that are truly the “wonder.”

Challenge readers to find seven wonders in their hometowns, or even within their own extended families. Discuss what makes a “wonder.” Is it a wondrous structure, a mysterious thing, or an unexplainable event?

Other books by Birney:

Other books about small town/farm life:
Cleaver, Bill. WHERE THE LILIES BLOOM. ISBN 0064470059
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. FARMER BOY. ISBN 0064400034

By Tammy Korns

No comments: