Prather’s Pick: Learning about apples |

Prather’s Pick: Learning about apples

Diane Prather
"The Apple Orchard Riddle," written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Courtesy Photo

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a kids’ picture book, “How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?”, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. In the book, the students from Mr. Tiffin’s class carried out an investigation to see which of three sizes of pumpkins had the most seeds. (Mr. Tiffin is a very creative teacher!)

In this week’s book, also by McNamara and Karas, Mr. Tiffin’s class visits an apple orchard. “The Apple Orchard Riddle” is intended for ages 4 to 8. The book is published by Schwartz and Wade Books.

The inside back and front papers of the book are decorated with illustrations of different kinds of apples, making me think that a teacher might decorate a bulletin board with pictures of apples cut from seed catalogs or drawings done by kids. Students might sample apples, too, and make a graph reflecting which they like best… but my teacher mind is rambling.

As you can see, this book might be used at school or at home or wherever fun teaching takes place, emphasis on “fun”.

As the book opens, Mr. Tiffin’s class is boarding the bus for a field trip to an apple orchard. Tara, one of the students is way behind the others so that one of her classmates warns that she might miss the bus. Tara doesn’t seem to notice. She gets on the bus and sits in a seat by herself so that she can look out the window and think about things.

Farmer Hills, a lady, greets the students when they get off the bus at Hill’s Orchards. There’s a lot to see and do at the orchard, but first Mr. Tiffin challenges the kids to solve a riddle during their visit.

“Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside,” he says. It’s something to think about as they walk around the farm.

First, the students visit the orchard, filled with trees filled with apples. Farmer Hills shows them the “pointy ladder” used to reach apples at the very tops of the trees. She demonstrates how to pick apples, too and each student fills a bag with apples — all except for Tara who sits under a tree, peering up at the sky. She’s thinking about the riddle. Mr. Tiffin tosses her an apple.

Next, Farmer Hills takes the students to see the apple press and learn how apple cider is made. After that they watch an apple peeler at work, getting apples ready for pies and cakes. The students name varieties of apples, too, and before leaving they are treated to apple cider and a cider doughnut.

During the visit, the students saw a red storage barn, an old red tractor, and a “sort of” red peeling machine, but none of them fits the criteria to answer the riddle. But then Tara has an idea.

There’s a page devoted to “Mr. Tiffin’s Apple Orchard Facts” at the end of the book.

According to Margaret McNamara’s brief biography, she wanted to “explore the idea that children have different learning styles”, thus the “sub-story” about Tara.

What a great book!

“The Apple Orchard Riddle” sells for $15.99 in hardcover, or you can find the book in the children’s room at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.

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