About The Book

When Eben McAllister reads about the Seven Wonders of the World, he longs to escape the small farming community of Sassafras Springs and do some exploring f his own. No one else ever seems to want to leave Sassafras however -- not even his best pal, Jeb -- and so, for now, Eben figures he's stuck on the farm with Pa and Aunt Pretty until he grows up.
All that changes when his pa, tired of Eben's moping, challenges him to find Seven Wonders in Sassafras Springs that can stang up to the real Seven Wonders of the World. And if he does? Then Eben will get the adventure he's been craving for -- a trip out West. Eben doesn't reckon he'll have any luck -- he can't think of even one thing that would be called "interesting," let along wonderous, in Sassafras, but he figures he'll give it a try; there's nothing else to do in Sassafras anyway.
While his mission puzzles and annoys some of his friends and neighbors, Eben perseveres, little knowing that he is in for a big surprise. For what with a singing saw, a floating table, and a truth-telling loom (just to name a few), the Wonders Eben will discover among his neighbors, friends, and family will give him the adventure of a lifetime...without his ever leaving home.
Told in a down-home narrative with glimmers of magical realism woven throughout, and illustrated with sumptuous drawings by Matt Phelan, Betty G. Birney's tale about a boy's journey of discovery reminds us all that extraordinary things can happen in the most ordinary of places...even in Sassafras Springs.

Reading Group Guide

Twelve-year-old Eben McAllister dreams of faraway places after he reads a book about the Seven Wonders of the World. He feels doomed to stay on the farm and in his small community of Sassafras Springs until he grows up. His father challenges him to find seven wonders among his friends and neighbors in order to win a train ticket to visit a cousin in Colorado.
Wonder; Country life; Family life; Neighbors
• What do you know about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Which ones would you like to be able to see?
• What wonders exist in your community? How could you go about uncovering them?
• Do you think you would like living in Sassafras Springs? Why or why not? If you could accompany Eben on his search for wonders, which person would you spend the most time talking to? Why?
• Research the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and make a diorama to show them.
• Explore your community and compile a list of the seven most interesting ones you find. Make a display with photos, stories, or models for each wonder.
• Eben was rewarded for his success by being able to go to St. Louis on the train. Imagine you earned a week's vacation anywhere in the world. Plan an itinerary and research travel arrangements, housing options, and sightseeing opportunities for this trip. Make a scrapbook of this imaginary trip complete with photos, schedules, and expenses.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Arlene Wiler
© William Allen White Children's Book Award
Please visit http://www.emporia.edu/libsv/wawbookaward/ for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About The Author

Betty G. Birney is an Emmy-winning screenwriter who specializes in live-action TV, and animation for children. She lives with her family in Studio City, California.

About The Illustrator

Matt Phelan's black-and-white illustrations first appeared in The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney. His picture books include The New Girl...and Me and Two of a Kind, both written by Jacqui Robbins. Matt lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (July 1, 2005)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780689871368
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Awards and Honors

  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • Young Hoosier Book Award Master List (IN)
  • Kansas State Reading Circle List Intermediate Title
  • Utah Beehive Award Master List
  • Great Stone Face Book Award Master List (NH)
  • California Collections
  • ALA Notable Children's Book Nominee
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Master List (VT)
  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award Master List
  • Judy Lopez Memorial Award Honor Book

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High Resolution Images

More books from this illustrator: Matt Phelan