As I mentioned before, Little House in the Big Woods is our latest read-aloud here at home. Although I didn't plan it, the timing is good because Laura Ingalls Wilder writes a lot about tapping maple trees and making maple syrup and sugar. That's exactly the season that our part of New England is nearing the end of. Last Sunday we went to a farm and saw the new-fangled shiny machine that has replaced the iron pot over the constantly burning fire for boiling down the sap. We may even get a chance to make our own maple candy soon; there's the possibility of six inches of snow before Saturday. (You boil down the syrup to a sticker version and then ladle it into a plate of snow, according to Mrs. Wilder.)
Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking, written by Laura Waterman Wittstock, concerns a modern-day Ojibway elder who still practices the old ways of setting up camp in the sugarbush each spring to make syrup. Wittstock also recounts the story of Ininatig, the "man tree" who helped a family survive the end of a treacherous winter. With maps, drawings, and photographs, this book clearly demonstrates the old craft and lovingly portrays the community of sugar makers. I read this one aloud too, as it's a little difficult (and long) for the average 7 year old reader.
Ininatig's Gift is part of a series called "We Are Still Here: Native Americans Today," put out by Lerner Publications. I've heard good things about Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters, and I'm also interested in Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition.
The Big Tree, written and illustrated by Bruce Hiscock, follows a maple tree over time from 1775 to the present. You'll find tree-tapping descriptions in this colorful and appealing picture book, of course. By the way, we also like The Big Rock, and will hunt down The Big Storm and The Big Rivers, all by Hiscock.
Speaking of snow, I almost forgot to mention the delightful picture book Terrible Storm. Written by the late Carol Otis Hurst and illustrated by S.D. Schindler, it's a humorous account of the famous blizzard of 1888, which took place in, uh oh, March! Hurst tells it from the points of view of her grandfathers, who lived through the storm and told stories about it from there on out.