The Leaves, They Are a-Falling

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

To young children, fall can be a time of bewilderment (what is happening to the leaves on my trees?!). As they get older and can remember previous falls, some of that mystery transforms into magic: soon fall becomes a season to embrace for the very changeability that was once so puzzling.

My two children are on opposite ends of this spectrum of discovery. On the one hand, there’s two-year-old Emily, who at times can’t refrain from picking up and examining every leaf she comes across. On our walks to school, I’ll point out a magnificent crimson maple leaf lying on the ground, freshly fallen and perfectly preserved in its flatness and shape: “Look at that huge red leaf—let’s grab it!” I’ll encourage. But she’ll stop short and pick up part of a shriveled brown leaf, holey from bugs and tinged with black spots. She’ll gaze at it with a furrowed brow before proudly handing it to me and demanding that I put it in her backpack. On the other hand, there’s five-year-old JP, whose seasoned eye searches out only the most unusual spectacles: “Whoa, that tree is totally orange! It looks like fire exploding out of a rocket ship!”

Regardless of where they fall on the spectrum, their excitement about fall is contagious. Tonight, the kids and I curled up together in our jammies to read my all-time favorite picture book about fall: Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (Ages 2.5-6), with text by Julia Rawlinson and watercolors by Tiphanie Beeke (side note: if you fall deeply in love with this book, as I know you will, make sure to get your hands on the sequels, Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas and Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms, which are equally captivating). Fletcher is a fox, who is experiencing fall for the first time and is deeply concerned about the fate of the beloved tree outside his den. As the leaves begin to turn colors and fall to the ground, he carefully catches them and tries to affix them back to the branches. In his sweet, bossy voice, Fletcher sounds like our own children tending to their fleet of dolls or stuffed animals: “‘Now you hold on tight,’ said Fletcher. ‘No more flying around.’” But our young fox stands little chance in the face of powerful natural elements: not only the wind, but the resourceful squirrels and porcupines looking to construct their winter nests, are quick to make off with more and more of the tree’s leaves.

By the end of the book, Fletcher has only one leaf left, which he takes into his den and tucks into bed with him (how many leaves and acorns are scattered around my children’s bedrooms right now?!). But sad nights usually give way to brighter mornings; and when the sun rises, Fletcher discovers his bare-branched tree is “hung with a thousand icicles, shining silver in the early light.” This payoff page is the favorite with my kids: they run their little fingers over the sparkly page covered with actual glitter. “It’s bumpy!” exclaims JP every time, as if the glitter has been conjured out of thin air. “It’s bumpy!” Emily echoes. “It’s beautiful!” they whisper together. Out of mystery is born amazement.

What parent doesn’t want to encourage a story about such a determined, caring, tree-hugging little fox (here trying to re-hang the fallen leaves on his beloved tree)?

Other Favorites About Fall’s Falling Leaves:
Leaves, by David Ezra Stein (Ages 2-5)
The Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger (Ages 3-6)
Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert (Ages 3-6)

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