Sugaring Time Essay - Critical Context

Kathryn Lasky

Critical Context

Kathryn Lasky is a versatile author who has written adult fiction, juvenile fiction, and nonfiction. Sugaring Time has a unique place in the canon of juvenile literature because it appeared during the early 1980’s, when children’s publishers were just beginning to expand the selection of nonfiction materials for young readers. Prior to this time, the majority of books published for children were fiction. The success of Sugaring Time showed the potential of information books in the juvenile marketplace.

Sugaring Time is a valuable book portraying the spirit of an American family as it harvests maple sap. This ecologically sound book demonstrates how family members can benefit financially from their environment without damaging it, an excellent example of a home business. The strength of the book is the simplicity of its text and the family unity that it displays.

The text is used widely in elementary classrooms; it was adapted as a filmstrip by Random House in 1986, for audio cassette in 1986, and for videocassette in 1988. The photographic essay format of Sugaring Time is useful in portraying social studies subjects, such as family, work ethics, working relationships, and industry. The book also explains many scientific concepts and can easily be integrated with units on weather, weather measurement, seasons, and photosynthesis. It could be integrated with mathematics units on temperature measurement, volume measurement, and the analysis of finances, such as balance sheets of profits and losses.

Miracles on Maple Hill (1956), a Newbery Honor Book by Virginia Sorensen, is a novel for middle-school readers that reinforces the content of Sugaring Time. Although the novel describes the emotional healing and reunion of a family after the father spends time in a prison camp during World War II, the backdrop to the story is their move to the country and the miracle of their maple sugar harvest. This novel would make a good companion book for Sugaring Time.