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At Grandpa's Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney
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At Grandpa's Sugar Bush

by Margaret Carney

Other authors: Janet Wilson (Illustrator)

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A young boy and his grandfather work together in this engaging Canadian picture-book - an appealing blend of family story and nature study - spending the boy's spring break from school in the family's sugar bush, harvesting the maple sap, and refining it into that delicious amber fluid known as maple syrup. As they work, the grandfather shares his knowledge of the world around them - the fact that the robin sings on the first day that the sap starts to run, or that the presence of snow fleas is a sure sign of approaching spring - making the experience as educational as it is fun.

Chosen as one of our May selections for the Picture-Book Club to which I belong, where our theme is the Spring season, At Grandpa's Sugar Bush is one of two titles devoted to the topic of sugaring that made the grade (see also: Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking). A gentle tale that, despite the absence of any drama, is quite engrossing, it is happily complemented by Janet Wilson's appealing oil paintings. I did find one image - in which the boy is leaning forward in order to taste some sweet sap dripping off the spigot - rather disturbing, but then, I have vivid memories of my sister knocking out one of her front teeth by doing something similar, during a family outing to a sugaring farm when we were girls.

Leaving that aside, I enjoyed this book, and although I don't know that it is especially brilliant, think it is an appealing selection, one I would recommend to young readers interested in the sugaring process. ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 25, 2013 |
At Grandpa's Sugar Bush, written by Margaret Carney and illustrated by Janet Wilson, is an informative and evocative Canadian picture book which combines a description of the sugaring process (maple syrup production) with a loving, respectful and educational relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Told as a first-person narrative, a school-aged boy (judging from the illustrations, he seems to be about nine or ten years old) describes how, during his spring break, he helps his grandfather in the sugarbush.

Margaret Carney's text is both educational and sensitive, and she truly captures the voice of a nine or ten year old boy, of a child (the narrator). The descriptions of the sugaring process, of the grandfather's ecological knowledge do, indeed, make the reader believe that he/she is reading a child's description or journal. There is never the feeling of reading the narrative of an adult trying to sound or write like a child; it feels very authentic.

The relationship between grandson and grandfather is both loving and mutually respectful, and also very educational. The grandfather relates and teaches his knowledge of both the natural world (nuthatches and woodpeckers searching for insects and nesting sites, the fact that snow fleas are a sign of spring) and the traditional sugaring process to his interested and eager young apprentice (his grandson), who then describes this to the readers, or of course listeners.

One aspect of At Grandpa's Sugar Bush that really impresses me and speaks to me are the subtle, yet strong environmental messages presented. Not only does the grandfather posses a truly vast store of ecological know-how and information, he also harvests his maple syrup in an environmentally friendly, sustainable manner. The grandfather uses only dead wood for his firewood, and most of the harvesting and transportation of the sap and finished maple syrup are done without the use of mechanised machinery and farm equipment (I like the fact that there are no tractors shown and that the grandfather uses a good old-fashioned axe to cut and split wood). The information on the back flap about author Margaret Carney states that she is a writer, editor and naturalist. Her respect for nature and advocation for sustainable farming/harvesting are clearly visible in this gem of a picture book, as she demonstrates that maple syrup can also be successfully collected using traditional, non-mechanised techniques.

Janet Wilson's richly detailed illustrations are simply enchanting. They truly capture the many signs of spring's arrival in the sugarbush, the loving relationship between the young boy and his grandfather, while also promoting and underlining the important environmental messages of the text (thus providing a perfect mirror to and for Margaret Carney's narrative). Highly recommended! ( )
  gundulabaehre | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book is ideal for introducing maple syrup production to children.The illustrations are so beautiful, they could easily be framed. Might be nice to follow up with a pancake breakfast!
  crystalmorris | May 19, 2010 |
This is a simple story of a young boy who goes to help his grandpa make maple syrup. The words and pictures powerfully evoke the sights, sounds and tastes of being in the woods. This book emphasizes not only the lore we can learn from grandfathers, but also the deeper knowledge that we can gain just from the experience of spending time with them. Reviewed by Book Dads ( )
  bookdads | Jan 22, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Carneyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wilson, JanetIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Alongside his grandpa, a young boy shares the tasks involved in making maple syrup the old-fashioned way. From tapping the trees to boiling the sap, the two spend many hours working side by side in the woods.
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In the frosty sugar bush, a young boy and his grandpa share the hard work of tapping the trees and collecting and boiling the sap. When the syrup is ready, they share the sweet, sticky goodness of their syrup on a stack of pancakes.

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