________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 23 . . . . February 20, 2015


Fall Leaves.

Loretta Holland. Illustrated by Elly MacKay.
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son), 2014.
32 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-54410-664-2.

Subject Heading:

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Stacey Matson.

***½ /4



Fall Arrives

In our universe, everything is always moving: the earth spins like a top while moving in a large circle around the sun. The sun also slowly moves in a circle around our galaxy. Our galaxy is slowly spinning too. All of these turnings make the sun's light come and go, getting closer and brighter to the earth at times or dimmer and farther away at other times. These changes create the cycle of days. nights, seasons, and years. In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun's light is moving south as fall arrives in late September.

Fall Leaves is part picture book, part science lesson. Each double page spread has two sides: one features a large title announcing the next step in nature's change from Fall to Winter. Smaller text under the titles explains the scientific reason as to what is happening in nature, explaining concepts like perennial plants and animal hibernation. On its facing page is an illustration of the titled event. The large titles use repetition and wordplay to great effect, with titles like "Leaves Fall", "Fall Stays", "Leaves Leave." Each page adds to the rhythm, reminding the reader that everything follows a pattern in nature as well. It was the secondary text that I had trouble matching to the illustrations and general mood created by Elly MacKay's lightbox illustrations. I wasn't sure what its purpose was. It didn't match the wordless narrative unfolding on each complementary page through the actions. Some explanations were very scientific and almost dense, and others seem to reach for a poetic, descriptive feel for the steps to the changing season, which was confusing.

internal art      On a second read through, I tried to think of how I would interpret Fall Leaves as a text. In that sense, this book would be great to use as a read aloud in early grade classrooms, allowing for a lot of time to talk about the seasons and the changes outside. Kids can share their own autumn stories, and the final page of the book provides the instructions on making leaf prints as a culmination to the unit. For very young children, parents can read just the titles aloud, skipping explanation, and focus on the vivid images depicting the slow change from autumn to winter.

      And it's easy to focus on these illustrations. Each full bleed illustrated page by Elly MacKay is its own lightbox illustration, beautifully capturing colour and detail. The illustrations of Fall Leaves have an amazing amount of depth to them, playing with perspective and, due to the process of creating a tiny theatre for each page, giving focus to the bright sun and light. Our two protagonists are a redheaded boy and girl, and their story is told solely through MacKay's illustrations. My favourite detail is the way MacKay is so adept at portraying the wind in her pieces, playing with the little girl's hair, kicking up leaves or blowing about the snow on the page. It's these small details that give action to the page and bring the book to life, far away from the very straightforward and scientific text.

      Fall Leaves offers many options for its readers: as a science book and the beginning of a lesson plan, as a short poem full of homonyms and wordplay in a read aloud for very young readers, and as a meditation on the subtlety of the shifting seasons for everyone.

Highly Recommended.

Stacey Matson is a writer living in Vancouver, BC. She recently finished her MA in children's literature at the University of British Columbia, and her first children's novel, A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius, came out in September 2014.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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