Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Fall Book Basket--Fashionably Late

Oh, yes I do realize that Thanksgiving is this week and I'm just now churning out my book basket selections for autumn. But, perhaps, if you are one of those people trying to stay in the present season and not fast-forward to winter and Christmas, this list might be of interest to you. [If you happen to be in winter/Christmas mode already, very soon I'll have book basket selections to fit those categories. So, sit tight!].

Our first book basket contender is Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli. I first read this charming story to Roo several years ago. It's so very similar to Leo Lionni's Frederick, but worth reading for a new twist on the classic fable. The mice featured in Three Pebbles are so cute wearing their calico and lace (suspenders for the boys) and scuttling about preparing for the coming winter. The illustrations of their cozy little home makes you want to hop right into the book's pages and snuggle up! While Moses the mouse is encouraged to gather supplies to sustain the family for winter, Moses gets easily distracted by the swirling leaves and the "whistle-y" song of the wind. In the end, although Moses never did get around to gathering his share of food and warm rags to help his family stock up for the cold months ahead, he was able to contribute a few things that were just as important as the "essentials." A great message about how the sum of the parts equal the whole, just as true in families as in mathematics!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves has been a favorite around our house for a few years running. We have a soft spot for foxes, and especially compassionate little ones like Fletcher. In this story, Fletcher becomes very concerned when his tree friend starts losing his leaves. Fletcher tries to "save" his friend by putting the leaves back on the tree's limbs. But, to no avail. However, the beautiful surprise awaiting Fletcher at the end of the book teaches him (and us) that there is beauty to be found in every season of life.

A Bear for All Seasons is not just a book about autumn. It covers all four seasons beautifully.
The illustrations are so comforting and capture all of the changes (both big and small) that accompany winter, spring, summer, and fall.

The fox (yes, another fox. I told you we love our fox friends in these parts) in the story is telling his friend Bear what he loves (and doesn't love) about each season. As he listens to Fox describing the highs and lows of each, Bear is convinced that he's decided which season is his favorite, only to change his mind again and again. While reading it, I'm always struck with the thought, "Oh, yes! I love that too!" Funny how easily you can forget what you enjoy until someone else points it and and reminds you. In the end we learn that, whatever the season, the gift of friendship helps us weather it all.

Of course, no book basket list would be complete without the works of Gerda Muller. I just had to add Autumn to our collection after having bought Spring and Summer (and last month I went ahead and ordered Winter because you can't have a proper seasonal collection of only three of the four seasons, can you?)

We enjoy this series by Muller so much. It seems a bit odd at first to "read" a book without words. But the trick is to have fun with it and make up new stories each time. These board books were some of the first books I noticed Rascal picking up and flipping through on his own. That is really saying something, because Rascal rarely sits still to look at anything.
But something about these books just drew him in. I do think they really opened his eyes to how fun books can be to just gaze at and soak up the beauty of the illustrations.

Honorable Mentions include:

Hurry, Hurry Mary Dear - My daughter enjoys this story and we read it daily during the autumn months. I'm not sure if she's drawn to it because it shows all the domestic complexities involved in readying for winter (very few of which she witnesses in our own home) or the way she gives her demanding and idle husband his due at the end of the story. Regardless, it's a quick and fun read and certainly opens the door for dialogue about fall duties around the home (like putting up jam and knitting warmies). Plus, for the littlest ones, it's fun to spot the black cat in the various scenes.

In November by Cynthia Rylant. When I first introduced this book to my family last year, I was the only one who liked it. Roo would always oblige and read it with me, but it was never the book she chose from the basket. This year, she seems better able to appreciate the gorgeous paintings and the poetic, descriptive text. I still think I enjoy it more than anyone else in the house, but that's okay. I used to often read children's books to myself, long before I ever had children of my own. So, if your children don't take to this story, maybe you can curl up on the couch and read it after they're in bed!

So that, in a nutshell (ha-ha. Couldn't resist sneaking a little autumn humor in there), is what we have sitting in our Fall Book Basket. I'm sure you'll have no problem checking them out from your local library, as it seems everyone has moved on to checking out Thanksgiving and Christmas stories (at least that's been the case at our library).

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