the frost is on the pumpkin…a list of five books fitting for fall

Here in Minneapolis, fall is still just teasing us. A spray of gold here, a spill of cranberry sumac there, an occasional dab of fiery orange, but not full-flung glory quite yet. It’s my favorite season of the year, hands down, and I could happily do several lists-full of pumpkin-spice-flavored-books, but here, at least, are five:

applesauce season cover image gersteinApplesauce Season, by Eden Ross Lipson, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein

This season’s apples are arriving in the markets and their names are like a bushelful of poetry — Paula Red and Jonagold, Macintosh and Black Twig. This little boy and his family — in particular, grandmother — are ready to cook up delicious potfuls of applesauce, an annual tradition in their household.

Making applesauce carries a joy in the process and the end result. Marketing together, choosing pounds and pounds of apples, chopping and cooking, sugaring and spicing, mashing and tasting, until it’s just right, are joyful tasks.applesauce season illustration mordicai gerstein

Then comes the eating, in a bowlful or atop ice cream, wrapped up in a crepe or stirred into a fragrant batch of gingerbread. Yummmm!

In all the work, and all the eating, the love of family, of working together, of carrying on traditions, of sharing the table with neighbors, of appreciating the subtle and striking flavors of our food — all this is part of what makes applesauce season so lovely. This was Eden Ross Lipson’s only children’s book, and what a treat it is. 

Mordicai Gerstein’s warm, jubilant illustrations emphasize all sorts of apple-y colors — reds, golds, and tart greens, and the luscious pink of that applesauce. Loose, sketchy lines and comfy people without pretense communicate a lovely homeliness. Included is a recipe for applesauce that I am hankering to try!  Ages 4 and up.

sneeze big bear sneeze cover image hillenbrandSneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze! by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

It’s a windy, fall day, and a lovable, bumbling bear is walking through the forest.  Suddenly…ah-choo! says Bear, while at the same moment, a stiff breeze comes along and whirls some leaves off the branch overhead.

Oops! I did that, thinks Bear. As he valiantly nails the leaves back in place, the wind tries to explain matters, but Bear is certain he is to blame.sneeze big bear sneeze illustration will hillenbrand

Next, Bear lets out a sneeze just as the wind rustles the branches of an apple tree, knocking the fruit onto the ground. Again, Bear is sure his sneeze is responsible, and nothing the wind says can sway him. When Bear also takes credit for the flight of  some geese, it’s time for wind to unfurl his biggest, most blustery voice and make sure Bear understands how an autumn breeze works.  And when Bear understands — there’s really only one thing for him to do!

Charming, silly book, full of autumnal gales, well-suited to preschoolers who’ll giggle at Bear’s foolishness. Will Hillenbrand’s mixed media illustrations capture Bear’s endearing self, as well as a marvelously engaging wind, Affection and pandemonium and loads of personality fill the pages.

autumn an alphabet acrostic cover image evansAutumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, by Steven Schnur, illustrated by Leslie Evans


Combine poetry, acrostics, the alphabet, and autumn, with gorgeous linoleum block prints and you get this  beautiful, creative book.

What does an alphabet acrostic look like? Here’s the first one.  A is for Acorn:

A single seed
Can feed a squirrel
Or grow into a giant oak that
Rains down new
Nuts every autumn.

There’s a full page for each letter, with the word running down in bold red letters autumn an alphabet acrostic illustration leslie evansand a clever, poetic acrostic built from it.  Seasonal thoughts about everything from  bats to knitting needles, jars of preserves to piles of pumpkins, fill these rich, woolsy, frosty, bountiful poems.

Leslie Evans’ striking illustrations are hand-colored linoleum cut blocks. Her prints rivet our attention with their strong lines, colors, and compositions. This is a clever, thoughtful, artistic book that could easily inspire some of your own autumn acrostics. The other seasons are also available from this team.

wild child cover image couchWild Child, by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Greg Couch

It’s bedtime for Autumn. Mother Earth is firm about that.

But of course, that wild child, Autumn, begins to cajole and bargain. One more song, a little snack, some pajamas, and a kiss are all needed before Autumn can settle to sleep. Mother Earth agrees to these pleas…

…yet what a song! And what pajamas! Mother Earth sings to Autumn a song of leaves that wild child illustration greg couchcrackle and acorns that skitter. She clothes Autumn in nightgown of flaming red with burnt-orange slippers. And her kiss is so frosty, and blustery, and crystalline, that even wild Autumn can’t resist snuggling down beneath a blanket of snow and falling fast asleep.

Lynn Plourde’s delightful, imaginative narrative is paired with fantastical illustrations by Greg Couch in acrylics and colored pencil. Couch has tackled this text with great creativity, giving us a mythic, personified Autumn and Mother Earth. Mother Earth is woven into the landscapes brilliantly, while Autumn captures the playful, fleeting, goldenness we all try to soak up in these short weeks.

This book has been around for quite awhile, but it’s new to me, and I really like it. If you read it, you’ll also see who comes out to play as soon as Autumn is slumbering! Preschool and up.

in november cover image kastnerIn November, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jill Kastner

November is a month largely overlooked it seems to me, increasingly swamped by December’s pre-holiday bustle.

This gentle, dear book  slows everything down, taking a steady, appreciative look at the goings-on of November.

It’s a quiet month for the earth, a time of rest and stillness. Small creatures must prepare, each in his own way, for the long, dark, cold season ahead of them. Such an intriguing variety of ways these animals have of coping with wintertime.

It’s a delicious month, as the savory, spicy foods that have been recently harvested are cooked up into hot cider and roasted squash and apple pie.

It’s a comforting month, as family and friends gather to share a meal and be thankful together.

It’s a cold month, ushering in clear night skies glittering with november illustration jill kastner 001

Cynthia Rylant’s evocative words, and her exceptional ability to use ever-so-few words, will make you fall in love with quiet November.  Meanwhile, Jill Kastner’s oil paintings are the perfect match. Gorgeous! Her dappled, complex colors capture the blaze of autumn leaves, the purple shadows on snow, the gray chill of a cloudy November day, the warmth of fireside and family. Zooming in on the subject brings us right into the scenes as we peek at bees nestled under the ground, cats snuggled in a furry pile, or one little mouse scampering across the snow.

Another beautiful choice, suitable for preschoolers and up.