Tag Archives: Vermont



By Jessie Haas

Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith

Published by Greenwillow Books

Copyright © 1996


I was born in Northwestern Massachusetts, just south of the Vermont line. This is still very much near the heart of maple sugaring country. As a matter of fact we only lived a few miles from Gould’s Sugarhouse which was on route 2 also called the Mohawk Trail. Living in rural New England spoils a lad when it comes to maple syrup; no Mrs. Butterworth’s or Log Cabin for me. Though I no longer live in New England I am very fortunate to live in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania which is also a maple syrup producing area. It is because of my love of maple syrup that I read the children’s picture book “Sugaring.”


Early spring is sugaring season, and Nora is collecting sap with her Gramp. The sap itself tastes like sweet water. And they can’t wait to get it back to their sugar shack to make it into something even sweeter, maple syrup. Nora also helps her Gramp as he boils down the sap. When they finally have maple syrup Nora thinks that the horses should have some since they did all the hauling.


“Sugaring” is entertaining and informative look at the charming and old fashioned process of maple sugaring.  It provides us with the simple details of how sap is collected and turned into maple syrup while at the same time telling the story of a girl who thinks that all workers, even horses, should be rewarded for their labor.


Of course, sadly, maple syrup is rarely collected with buckets, horses, and sleds anymore. Often they use tubing that is gravity fed down to the sugarhouse. And while wood is still used to heat the evaporators some producers use oil or other fossil fuels. If you are fortunate though you will still find an operation that keeps the old fashioned tradition of making maple syrup alive.


“Sugaring” is a great book to read with inquisitive children (ages 4-8) who want to know where maple syrup comes from. I plan on making its reading an addition to my own personal maple festival.


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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Family, Nature/Animals, People & Places, Seasonal

Ethan Allen: His Life and Times

By Willard Sterne Randall

Published by W. W. Norton & Co.

Copyright © 2011

Review by A. Kendrick

Ethan Allen – it’s not just a furniture store. Ethan Allen was a founding father of the State of Vermont, and also of the United States of America. He was a war hero, a land speculator, an author, and a philosopher.

Randall provides us with a glimpse of Colonial New England and its Puritan governance in the time of Ethan and his ancestors. He adroitly points out the people and events that shaped his thinking and actions – from preachers to French philosophers, and from doctors to Indians. We are given the image of a strong and intellectual boy who, after the death of his father and thus the end of his education, quickly becomes a man, entrepreneur, and especially a leader. 

His leadership is on full display, not so much in being the leader of the unit that captured Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of the Revolutionary war, but in his single minded desire to save the New Hampshire Grants (the state of Vermont) from the well to do New York and British Hierarchy.

Ethan Allen is also shown to us as a great thinker and writer. When we think of Revolutionary era writers we think Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, or Thomas Jefferson. What we fail to realize is how much these men were influenced by the writing and actions of Ethan Allen. And while one might have a distaste for Allen’s writings on religion and his rejection of established religion, Randall’s portrait of a world ensconced in a twisted theology makes Ethan’s deistic, and some might say atheistic, proclamations quite understandable.

While this biography will especially be enjoyed by American Revolution Enthusiasts, I think most individuals interested in the real lives of other people will find Ethan Allen to be a fascinating study. Though shown as a man with flaws he was, to say the least, a man of vision and action who stood up for what he thought was right, and he knew how to motivate others to do so. In an era when men of principle are increasingly hard to find the story of Ethan Allen is refreshing, thought provoking, and enjoyable.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, History

The Rope Walk

The Rope Walk

By Carrie Brown

Published by Pantheon books

Copyright 2007   

Having had my own childhood experiences in the verdant hills of southern Vermont, this book was a trip back in time for me. This drama isn’t about Vermont though; it is about losing innocence and gaining courage and devotion. It’s about realizing for the first time that there are many bad things in the world and seeing some of them personally, such as prejudice and disease, and yet not being marred by it.

“The Rope Walk” tells the moving story of ten year old Alice who is a very quiet and introspective girl, and who has lived a protected life with her father (a college professor) and five brothers in the countryside of Vermont. She has felt safe, secure, and loved in her home not realizing that the outside world can be so much different than the one she lives in. On her tenth birthday she is presented with two windows into that other world. The first is Theo, an interracial child from the city who is staying with his white grandparents. The second is Kenneth Fitzgerald a famous aging artist who is dying of AIDS.

Alice and Theo soon become fast friends and come to not only enjoy, but need each others companionship. Both children spend portions of their days keeping company with Kenneth and reading to him about the expedition of Lewis and Clark. Through their experience and reading the children come up with the idea of building Kenneth a rope walk to provide him some freedom and beauty. Their good intentions have startling consequences that even Theo, who has seen and heard so much from living in New York City, did not expect. The jaded adults in their life just can’t seem to see their innocence in what happens, and Alice comes to know what being alone really feels like.

Carrie Brown’s ability to write such a moving story from the viewpoint of a young girl is amazing. Her use of metaphor and her detail in the descriptions of Alice’s feelings, her senses, and her perception of the world makes the reader feel like they are right there with her. This is a book that you won’t soon forget.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Coming of Age, Strong Sense of Place

Snowflake Bentley

Snowflake Bentley

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrated by Mary Azarian

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company

Copyright © 1998


When I was a child I loved snow. I loved Snow balls, snow forts, snowmen, snow angels, and even just snow tunnels. But Jacqueline Martin has shown me someone who loved snow even more than I did. “Wilson Bentley was born February 9, 1865, on a farm in Jericho, Vermont.”


Vermont is generally considered a winter wonderland from November to March when it is most often covered in snow. Snow is probably the only thing more plentiful than cows in Vermont. And yet something that was so common, and to many Vermonters obtrusive, was beautiful and magical to William Bentley. He was so taken with snow that he devised a way to take photographs of individual snowflakes. Of course William Bentley liked to photograph nature at all times of the year spring, summer, and fall, but his most notable photographs are of winter’s snowflakes. So, he has become known as “Snowflake Bentley”.


This is a wonderful non-fiction picture book that instills a child like sense of wonder in even the oldest reader, taking them back to the days when they loved snow too.  This book is not just about snow though, it is about doing what you enjoy because you love it, not because it makes you rich. Great book!


Reading Level: Ages 4-8

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Hobbies, Nature/Animals, Seasonal