Pair of Fall Favorite Picture Books

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Pair of Perennial Favorites

Here is a pair of picture books I particularly love reading in the fall. They are perennial favorites, books I come back to again and again. Just right for the younger set, though readers of any age will find powerful messages tucked into these small packages.

Here are stories that embody joy, wonder, and the deep truth of our inner nature, illustrated with lovely, emotive artwork, and spiced with two essential images of autumn – leaves and geese…

Leaves, by David Ezra Stein, is about a bear cub’s first year and the joy he experiences in everything around him, until the first leaves of autumn start to fall. Distressed by this new development, he tries to catch the leaves and put them back on the trees, but it is clearly not the same. Surrendering to the season, he watches the leaves drift to the ground, gathers them into a soft bed, and sleeps through the quiet, snow filled winter. Waking wide–eyed in the spring, he steps out into the warm sun, sees buds on the trees and is overcome with happiness. The two-page spread, as he welcomes the tender, new leaves, emanates with exuberant joy and wonder. The story closes with a quieter, more reflective note as Bear realizes the leaves seem to be welcoming him too. Spare, simple language is just right for little ones and provides a perfect scaffolding for the illustrations which, rendered with watercolor and bamboo pen, are soft and emotive, and hit all the right color tones of autumn. Ample white space helps keep the pages simple and the story focused. And Bear himself is pictured not as heavy and lumbering, but rather nimble, curious, and playful. On the surface Leaves is a sweet story about the cycle of seasons, but the deeper undertones of following one’s own natural rhythm and instincts resonates throughout.

  • Leaves by David Ezra Stein. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-399-24636-4

The first thing you’ll notice about Goose, by Molly Bang, is its miniature size. But this little book is anything but slight. On a dark and stormy night an egg rolls out of a nest into a woodchuck’s den. The woodchuck family adopts the egg as its own and cares for their new gosling with all the love and expertise a woodchuck family has to give. They teach their goose how to dig and swim and stay away from hunters, but over time the goose grows withdrawn and sad. No matter how much she is loved and accepted by her family, she just feels different, and finally must go out on her own to find the missing piece of herself. In a moment of despair, she falls from a cliff and surprisingly, wonderfully, discovers she can fly. Soaring into the sky, readers will rejoice in Goose’s revelation and even more so when she flies right back to her family of woodchucks. Simple, understated text is just right for younger children, while rich, vibrant illustrations bring the story to life. Bang’s deft use of panels, using them to draw attention both inward and outward, builds rhythm, emotional landscape, and perspective. A beautiful story about adoption, unconditional love, and family, Goose also reverberates with the importance of discovering our own personal truths.

  • Goose by Molly Bang. Published by Blue Sky Press, 1996. ISBN: 978-0-590-89005-2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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