August 2005

The wonders of an ordinary place

By Betty G. Birney
Review by
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Slow down the pace of modern life and turn to the world of Sassafras Springs, Missouri, right after the turn of the 20th century. Young Eben McAllister lives there with his widowed Pa and Aunt Pretty, and he has a severe case of wanderlust brought on by reading all about the world, especially the Seven Wonders of the World. The more he reads, the more he realizes how danged ordinary his life and town are.

But things are about to get interesting for Eben. After his father sadly admits his regret that his late wife never got to visit her cousins in Silver Peak, Colorado, he comes up with an intriguing idea for 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! Aunt Pretty can barely believe her ears imagine a 12-year-old boy traveling all by himself, let alone leaving his father right before harvest! Seven Wonders in seven days? In this little old speck-on-the-map town? The race is on and we all cheer for Eben on as he begins his search for . . . well, what exactly is he searching for? Surely not pyramids or hanging gardens. Eben has lived in his town for his whole life. He knows all the residents and, to his young mind, there is nothing special about a one of them. But, a challenge is a challenge and a train ticket is nothing to scoff at.

At first, his neighbors are suspicious and figure Eben is up to no good. Even Mrs. Pritchard, his Sunday school teacher, seems to disapprove of his quest, until she comes up with an idea of her own. In one stunning story from her youth, Eben hears a tale that qualifies as a Wonder with a capital W. As he digs deeper into the lives of his neighbors, he discovers amazing things about them and their world. Each wonder brings him closer to reaching Colorado.

Gentle illustrations and down-home dialect help make this a book to treasure and reread. Here is a story that will inspire you to look for the wonders in your own town and make you want to pass this special book along to the next reader.

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The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs

By Betty G. Birney
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9780689871368

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