- Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt
Schmidt, Gary D. Almost Time; written by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney; illus. by G. Brian Karas. Clarion, 2020 [32p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-544-78581-6 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-358-16693-1 $12.99 Reviewed from galleys R 4-7 yrs
Winter has outlasted the supply of maple syrup in Ethan's home, so he's eager to tap the trees and make a new year's batch. His dad explains that it's not time yet—that the days need to be warmer and the nights shorter. Meanwhile, Ethan's got a tooth that's loose, and his father suggests that it'll be ready to come out about the same time the sap comes in ("Now Ethan had two things to wait for"); while the wait for both seems endless, eventually the tooth goes, the sap comes, and it's collected and boiled down to syrup in the sugaring shed. There's a gentle, spare folksiness to the storytelling, and Schmidt and Stickney cleverly calibrate time's slow unspooling in kid-friendly terms (various Sunday breakfasts pass with a notable absence of maple syrup). The art enhances the homey flavor and adds key details about the sugaring process (in a nicely observed touch, Dad is constantly chopping the wood that will [End Page 226] provide the fuel long before sap collection starts), while Ethan is believable in his tooth-wiggling waiting and enviable in his final contented relaxation before his emptied breakfast plate. Kids will likely have some questions about Ethan's rural lifestyle and the sugaring process (the latter of which could be answered by Eaton's Bear Goes Sugaring, reviewed above), but mostly they'll just relate to the eternity that is waiting for something wonderful and the joy of a good weekend breakfast.