Our dog Archie may be mostly blind and have hips that decide he needs to sit down mid-stride, but this time of year, the moment he steps outside he’s like a pup again. Head and tail up, he treks jauntily around the yard enjoying the cool air and its accompanying breeze. I know just how he feels! Although my step isn’t as jaunty, I, too, am at my most puppyish in the fall. Put a pile of leaves in my path or anywhere I can easily reach, and I will joyfully kick my way to the other side.
No book captures the enjoyment and sound of fall leaves like Ska-tat! by Kimberley Knutson. This magical book reads like a jazz poem. “Sh-kah, sh-kah hurrah!” three children revel in their autumnal walk home. As the leaves fall from the trees, “Krish-krash! Ka-rak!” the children “sciff and scuff the colors up” “Sha-shoo! Ska-tat!” they jump through “twig-snappy piles and crunch up a smell like spicy toast.” What a great description of the unique scent of fallen leaves. Knutson’s timeless collage illustrations incorporate actual leaves and other natural elements and are a perfect accompaniment to the text.
Older preschoolers will love the story, Possum’s Harvest Moon, by Anne Hunter. Possum awakes one evening to the “biggest, brightest, yellowest moon” and decides it is the perfect night for “one last dance in the moonlight before the long winter.” He hurries to invite his guests only to be met by refusal after refusal. The crickets are “tired from singing all summer,” Raccoon has “so much to eat, so little time,” and the frogs have “to go underground for the winter.” Saddened and dismayed, Possum puts on his party hat and sits alone. As the moon rises higher, the other animals can’t help but reconsider. Soon they arrive at Possum’s house bringing “seeds and berries, fiddles and songs.” All party the night away until it’s time to go “home to dens and nests, holes and burrows. Time for a winter’s long sleep.” The subdued palette of these watercolor and pen and ink illustrations make this a cozy read for an autumn night.
Apples and Pumpkins, by Anne Rockwell, is great toddler prep for anyone planning a visit to one of our local pumpkin farms. Now that “red and yellow leaves are on the trees,” the family hits the farm. Walking among the geese and chickens and a big, fat turkey, they head first to the orchard where apples are plucked, ripe from the trees. When their bushel basket is full, the family heads next to the pumpkin field. The little girl looks and looks until she finds “the best pumpkin of them all.” Taking it home, they carve it into a jack-o’-lantern making a scary yet funny face just in time for trick-or-treating. The simple text and Lizzy Rockwell’s cartoon-like illustrations, which use an autumnal palette, will appeal to the youngest of readers.
Originally published in The Free Lance-Star.