Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs

Betty G. Birney
Illustrator:  Matt Phelan 
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2007   ISBN: 978-1416934899

Eben is pretty fed up with living in Sassafras Springs, and he only gets more fed up when he reads a wonderful book about the Seven Wonders of the World. If only he could see these wonders with his own eyes; if only Sassafras Springs had a few wonders of its own. Then Eben’s father decides to challenge his son, saying that if Eben finds seven wonders in Sassafras Springs, he will give Eben the money to go on a trip.

Eben is pretty sure that there are no wonders in his hometown. After all, he has lived there all his life and has seen nothing special in all that time. Still, Eben decides to give the challenge a shot and he finds out that there is, in fact, a lot that he doesn’t know about Sassafras and the people who live there.

Eben discovers that wonders can come in all shapes and sizes. It is just a matter of listening to the stories that go with them. For one old man who is living in a ramshackle house, a bookshelf with no books on it is a wonder. For another man a piece of woven fabric is a wonder. As Eben discovers each wonder, he gets to know the people behind the stories, and he begins to see that Sassafras Springs is not as dull as he thought it was.

This startling and fresh piece of fiction is both laugh-out-loud funny and, at times, it is a little bit disquieting. Some of the wonders that Eben discovers have a magical element to them that cannot be explained away by logic or scientific analysis, and yet you cannot help believing that every word Eben is told is the truth.

Packed with wonderful descriptions of life in rural 1920’s America, and with a generous sprinkling of eccentric and colorful characters, this book has a storyline that will resonate with everyone who has wanted to ‘run away from home.’