The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs

The Seven Wonders of Sassafas Springs

Our "new books" shelf in the children's room is quite often a tad behind the times viz. the latest releases. The books are new to us, but not the world. I just checked out "The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs," by Betty G. Birney, illustrated by Matt Phelan (Simon & Schuster, 2008, 224 pages Ages 8 and up).

It took a big effort to check it out, because I was so unimpressed by the mustard brown cover with its minimalist picture. Why did they do this to this book? It is about Wonders of the World, both ancient and Sassafrasian, so there was lots of artistic inspiration waiting to happen!

It is the early 20th century. Eben MacAllister, a 10 year-ish old boy, wants desperately to see the world beyond Sassafras Springs, Missouri. His father remembers how Eben's mother had wanted badly to visit her family in Silver Peak, Colorado, but had never had the chance before her death a few years ago. So he makes a bargain with Eben: "You find yourself Seven Wonders right here in Sassafras Springs and I'll buy you a ticket to go see Molly and Eli and that mountain!" Eben has seven days for seven wonders. He finds them, and he, and the reader, are left with an appreciation for a place and people (and book--again, why mustard brown??? is it supposed to evoke the pyramids?) that looked mundane.

Each Wonder that Eben finds comes with its own story, told by its owner. Often I find it jarring to have intrusive narrators telling stories, but it works in this book. This book is an epic quest, and the patterning of the stories is reminiscent of mythological and epic tales (labors of Hercules etc). The structure of the book, its unpretentious, flowing prose, and its gently detailed black and white drawings, make it very well suited, I think, for reading out loud. I shall be doing so.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafrass Springs has just been released in paperback. The cover is marginally better, but still does not do this lovely book justice. Eben is supposed to be on a Quest--he has energy, purpose, enthusiasm. The boy in the painting looks kind of bored.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on new seven wonders of the world, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. i live far from where you are and its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

    Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

    On a related note perhaps you might find the following links interesting. we're reviewing the best among the competing 21 participants for the new 7 wonders competition. i'll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. i'll be back soon...

    The Kremlin and the Red Square
    Angkor Wat
    Eiffel Tower
    Hagia Sophia

    ps. if you have your own favourites list or if you'd like us to write about other wonders pls do mention about it in the comments.


    Kerala, India


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