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Newsletter – Sugar Snow January 19, 2024

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Hello Book Bums families!

We hope you are staying warm and safe during this very cold stretch. This week in the newsletter we're turning our attention to the sweet business of maple syrup. We have book recommendations, poetry, and some modern technology to help with an age old practice.

We love to hear from you! You can always respond to this email with comments or ideas or simply to share what you've been reading this new year.

Word of the Week

clandestine (klan-dess-tin) adjective/describing word - secret

The surprise party plans were very clandestine to avoid ruining the big moment.

Literary Calendar

  • January 19 is the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Born in 1809, Poe is an American author most well-known for his poetry and gothic stories such as "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat."
  • Poe has a complicated and tragic life story.  If you're interested, you can take a deep dive starting with this Library of Congress article.

"We loved with a love that was more than love" from the poem "Annabel Lee" by Poe

From our Bookshelves

BB Plant

If you read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published between 1932 and 1943, it’s likely you remember the story about sugar snow. It’s the one where Pa played the fiddle and skirts swirled and boots stomped on the wide plank floors while Grandma, in the kitchen, stirred and stirred the boiling syrup in the big brass kettle. It wasn’t long until Grandma called everyone to take their saucers outside “where the stars were frosty in the sky” and fill them with freshly fallen snow. Then, Grandma dipped her large wooden spoon into the pot and ladled some syrup onto each snow-filled plate where the syrup cooled into a soft, delicious candy. Everyone got back to dancing and clapping and stomping as the syrup cooked a little more, and before they knew it, the syrup was graining. The women set out all the pans and cups and saucers and filled them with syrup that soon cooled to make maple sugar.

Maybe it’s these stories that make me love brass kettles, wooden spoons, and wide planked floors. If you’ve been inside a Book Bums tutoring center, you know we have some delightful treasures from those days of old. Have you ever noticed these containers hanging inside the West Chester Book Bums location?

Sugar Snow book

If your kids aren’t quite old enough for the original Little House books, there are also picture books, published in the late 1990’s, called My First Little House Books, that tell parts of those beloved novels you enjoyed as a child. You can find Winter on the Farm, Winter Days in the Big Woods, Sugar Snow, and many others. These books are lovely stories with beautiful illustrations that share a bit about life in the United States long ago.

Tips for Families

I just signed up for a couple of maple syrup and sugaring events I found on because I still enjoy learning about methods and ways of life from earlier times. I signed up for one that’s for adults only, and I also signed up for another to enjoy with our grandkids. If you’re interested in events like these, check out these offerings in the greater Cincinnati area. Sign up soon, for most of them will sell out!

Some Book Bums students learn about the process of tapping maple trees in one of our nonfiction units. Look at some of the stuff I’ve collected to make the learning fun.

Maple tree lit

FYI- If you are interested in trying to tap some maple trees, but you’re not sure you have maples on your property, there’s a plant identifier app called Picture This. We pay about $30 a year for the app and find it to be worth the price. We love finding plants and trees that appeal to us, looking them up, and deciding if they’ll work in our yard. We also like the feature allowing us to determine the health of the plants in our landscape. Believe it or not, this app can even identify trees by their bark alone. So, if you’re not sure you have a sugar maple or red maple tree (the best ones for tapping), this app may be helpful. Most folks who harvest maple sap for syrup-making identify their trees with marking tape (found at any hardware store) during the summer and fall months, but it’s not too late if you haven’t done so.

Pause for Poetry

Sap Time
by Albert Southwick

The City Man drives past and sees the sap pails on the trees,
He stops his car and steps outside and sniffs the fragrant breeze,
He sees the happy farmers with their Maple trees on tap,
He breathes a sigh of envy … but.
He’s never gathered sap.

He sees the sled and team come in … it looks like so much fun,
The farmer looks so healthy and he wishes he was one;
But in his logic there is apt to be one major gap,
For all his vim and eagerness,
He’s never gathered sap!

He wanders to the sap house with its cloud of fragrant steam,
He watches how the rising foam is quelled with drops of cream.
He sees the golden syrup pour and fill the thick nap
He thinks it’s simply super but …
He’s never gathered sap.

He’s never slogged for ten hours at a stretch through mud and slush.
He’s never emptied buckets till his mittens turned to mush.
He’s never slipped and fallen down and spilled it in his lap.
He thinks it’s wonderful because …
He’s never gathered sap.

He doesn’t go to bed to dream of maples row on row,
With miles and miles of buckets just about to over flow.
He thinks it’s quote romantic … he’s a very pleasant chap,
But the brutal fact my friends is that,
He’s never gathered sap.

Tips for Raising Readers and Writers

Quote 1.19.24

Have you thought about how open you are to considering an idea or way of thinking that differs from your own? I saw this image and was challenged. We all believe we’re right about things because we know what we know. The problem is, we don’t know everything.

We get into trouble when we assume we know all there is to know on any given topic. That’s what I love about books. Reading books can be a wonderful way to invite another’s experience, perspective, and ideas into our lives. We won’t always agree or adopt a new framework, but we’re richer for considering ideas outside of ourselves.

If knowledge is power, perhaps we become more knowledgeable and thereby more powerful in our own worlds as we read a wide variety of books. Every expert I know continues to read, watch, and listen to experts in their fields—even those (maybe even especially those) who have a new or different perspective. Perhaps open-mindedness is a telltale sign of expertise.

Practical Grammar

I was teaching a lesson about o-w saying /Ow!/ or /Oh!/ when I had to explain what the word browse means. The student mistook the word as the name of those lines of hair above our eyes, brows.


Did you know that the e at the end of browse is there to distinguish it from the plural of brow? Same with words like moose and dense and expose. Sure, e’s do a lot of things in words, but sometimes they’re there simply to indicate the word is not a plural.

Just for Fun

Adult 1.19.24

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