Kindle Me a Riddle


by Roberta Karim
illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins

ISBN 0-688-16203-7

What is cider before it is cider?

Answer: apples

And what is a wagon road before it's a wagon road?

Answer: a buffalo trail, long and deep

Constance and Jack and their mama and papa are playing a riddle game that stretches from morning to night.  And once the riddles start, they crackle and pop like kindling aflame.  As the pioneer family stirs up one riddle after another, young readers will delight in puzzling out answers that illuminate the details of daily life for settlers living on the frontier.

Roberta Karim's fascinating portrait of early American life is illustrated with paintings brimming with energy and authenticity by Bethanne Andersen, and includes historical background notes on the facts behind the riddles.

Roberta Karim was inspired to write this story when she discovered that a lakeside road near her home was originally a buffalo trail.

What was this book before it was a book?

You can kindle a riddle, too!


* Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

[National Council for the Social Studies and Children's Book Council]

* Notable Books for Children -- Smithsonian Magazine

* Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens -- Capitol Choices

* Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee

* Publishers Weekly - Starred Review

* Kirkus - Pointered Review



“A chipper and informative picture book.  Andersen matches Karim’s homespun, image-rich language with vibrant airy scenes.  The guessing game offers readers insight into the rhythms of another century.  As a bonus, four pages of illustrated capsules at the end of the book detail 'THE LIFE OF A PIONEER FAMILY.'"


"A good choice for primary classes studying pioneer life; an appended section offers more information about each of the household items mentioned."


"When young Constance accidentally lets the cabin's fire die out, her father composes a riddle to cheer her up, spawning a riddle marathon as the entire family participates in creating conundrums.  Karim devises clever puzzles that reveal the origins of items that would be commonplace for a pioneer, e.g. before it was a basket, it was 'saplings that leaned in the wind.'  Andersen's oil paintings depict carefully researched, authentic scenes from pioneer life and capture the strong, loving family bonds that resonate in the text.

The sparkling tale is fun to read and illuminating, and will round out any lesson on early settlers.  A 4-page addendum, 'THE LIFE OF A PIONEER FAMILY,' provides further information about the objects in the riddles, such as how a log cabin is constructed."