“What-cha doing, Dad?”
“I’m making a fire in the evaporator. It will make the sap boil until it becomes maple syrup.”
“Look at all the smoke coming from the sap,” marveled Ben.
“That’s not smoke. That’s steam. The water in the sap is evaporating. In a few hours, I’ll have some fresh syrup for you to taste.”
Ben could hardly wait.
Author Kim Renton has turned her knowledge of maple syrup farming into a picture book about a family’s journey through the maple syrup business. Narrated by five-year-old Ben, the story shows how each person in the family helps make maple syrup and its products. Grampa explains how to tap the trees; Dad demonstrates how the evaporator works in the sugar camp; Gramma is making maple butter using paddles and thermometers and a big pan; and Mom is making maple cream in the kitchen. Ben helps when he can, and, being a curious boy, he repeatedly asks the question, “What-cha doing?” Other processes shown in the book are pouring the syrup over snow to make candy and shaping candies. There is a little bit of a mystery at the end of the book because Ben disappears, but the reader will understand why after reading this delicious story.
Back material includes a one-page glossary of “Maple Words”, terms such as “sap”, “holding tank” and “spile”. Tamara Thiébaux Heikalo’s folksy illustrations immerse the reader in the maple syrup season, both outdoors and indoors. The closeness of the characters and the snowy scenes make for a cozy read. I would recommend having maple syrup on hand after reading What-Cha Doing? to a classroom or to a child because everyone will likely ask for a taste.
Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, Alberta.