five for crackling fires and hot apple cider

autumn-maple-tree-110661300192097PsxFall officially arrived weeks ago, but just now the maples in my backyard are ablaze with that glorious color we love.

Here are five lovely picture books that capture the beauty and transience of autumn.


Say It! cover imageSay It! by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
originally published in 1980; published with new illustrations in 2015 by Candlewick Press

This enduring story by Zolotow simply lets us eavesdrop on a conversation between a mom and her little girl as they walk together on a “golden, windy autumn day” Kicking up leaves, watching the spattered reflections in a pond, soaking up the chill air, blowing milkweed seeds about…it’s just the sort of leisurely, nature-infused walk that’s good for the soul.

Say It illustration2 Charlotte Voake

All along the way, the little girl begs her mother to, “Say it!” Mother responds with exuberant, language-lush exclamations about the beauty of the day, but that’s not quite what this child is waiting for. What are the magic words she wants to hear?

Say It illustration Charlotte Voake

Charlotte Voake’s new illustrations surround us in a blowsy, apricot-warm, swirl, with her marvelously gentle, carefree line sweeping and dipping right along with those scurrying leaves. A dear story for ages 3 and up.

Baby Bear Counts One cover imageBaby Bear Counts One, written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff
published in 2013 by Beach Lane Books

Ashley Wolff’s bold, richly-colored prints will draw you into this storybook like the aroma of a robust cup of coffee, or maybe the waft of hot chocolate if that’s your preference.

Mama bear and her busy cub are almost ready to den up for the season. As they lumber around their woodsy neighborhood, Baby Bear hears many curious noises — kerploppings and honkings, thockity-thockings and whappings. What are they? Who is making them?

Baby Bear Counts One illustration Ashley Wolff

As Mama introduces him to the various animals who are all preparing for winter, Baby Bear counts them, and you can, too, until finally we arrive at some wintertime visitors that are too many to count.

Baby Bear Counts One illustration2 Ashley Wolff

Gorgeous illustrations and a perfect text for young children, ages under-Two and up.

Winter is Coming cover imageWinter is Coming, by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Despite the title, this book is a splendid autumn treat, gently walking through the months from September to late November.

The quiet, descriptive narration comes from a young girl, maybe 8 years old, a budding naturalist. With her nature sketchbook and drawing supplies, binoculars and thermos of cocoa, she ventures into the woods to observe the animals preparing for winter. So, right from the get-go, I love the whole notion of this story, the freedom, the out-of-doorsness, the connection to Nature.

Winter is Coming interior2 Johnston and LaMarche

As luck would have it, she manages to spy quite a lot of wildlife! Rabbits and chipmunks, yes, but also a skunk family, a bear and her cub, and even a lynx from afar! She tells what she observes and thinks about them in a lyrical, ambling sort of way. That’s the whole text of the book.

Winter is Coming interior Johnston and LaMarche

Jim LaMarche’s illustrations — acrylics, colored pencil, and opaque ink — are gorgeous, capturing the grandeur, the wonder, the serenity, the chilly atmosphere, the texture of dry grasses and soft fur…just everything. He brings us right into this little glade so we can feel the nip on our cheeks and smell the forest floor.

A beautiful enticement towards the natural world for ages 4 and up.

The Apple Doll cover imageThe Apple Doll, written and illustrated by Elisa Kleven
published in 2007 by Farrar Straus Giroux

Lizzy is starting school this fall, and she’s quite nervous about that. What she mainly loves to do is play imaginative games in the apple tree in her yard with her cat for a companion. Sounds good to me.

Her bright idea is to make a little, rustic doll out of an apple and a twig. She names it Susanna, and plans to take it to school as a secret companion. This does not work out as well as she hopes.

The Apple Doll illustration Elisa Kleven

As the days grow colder and Lizzy’s family is busy canning and drying apples for winter, the idea of making a dried-apple dollapple doll photograph Elisa Kleven emerges. Lizzy and her mama work together peeling and soaking, crafting and accessorizing, until her new-and-improved Susanna is ready to return to school.

This time, she’s quite a hit!

Elisa Kleven’s trademark sunshiny, confetti-colored illustrations stream joy through even the wobbliest of Lizzy’s days. Detailed instructions for making your own dried-apple doll are included. Ages 4 and up.

George Flies South cover imageGeorge Flies South, written and illustrated by Simon James
first U.S. edition published in 2011 by Candlewick Press

Winter is on the way. Trees are losing their leaves. Birds are heading south. But George does not feel quite ready to fly.

However!!…when Mom pops off for just a moment to fetch some worms, a sudden whoosh of a breeze takes matters into its own hands, so to speak, lifting George, nest and all, off his limb and twirly-whirly through the air.

George Flies South interior Simon James

From one unexpected landing place to the next, George is carried right along, while his anxious mother valiantly tries to keep up with him and coax him into flying on his own. It’s quite a dicey journey! In the scariest moment of all, George’s nest disintegrates mid-air and…oh dear!…will George get the hang of this flying thing in time?!

George Flies South illustration Simon James

Spoiler alert: It’s a happy ending.

An adventurous story with a spicy dash of suspense, delightfully illustrated in Simon James’ energetic, willy-nilly, Quentin Blake-ish style. Ages 3 and up.

There are lots more autumn-themed books in the archives. Search the Subject index under Seasons.