Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekend Theme: Autumn

This week here in the Midwest (and all over the Western hemisphere) we welcome Fall.  Fall or Autumn is so wonderful here in this part of the Midwest with the chill in the air and the beautiful changing of the leaves.  We won’t see the full colors for a couple weeks, but I couldn’t resist making Autumn my weekend theme and share these books with you.  There are 2 picture books and one middle grade fiction book.

Fall Mixed Up

Fall Mixed Up is written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Chad Cameron.  The book is available in hardcover and is a large book with bright colorful pages.  This silly story is told in rhyme and fits perfect with the start of the season.  The books would make a perfect read aloud for ages 3 to 8.

Throughout the book Fall Mixed Up, the scenes and characters are mixed up indeed, wearing gloves on their ears and eating apple syrup.  My Lil Guy, age 2, was giggling at the pictures of the squirrels flying south for the winter.  The illustrations are cute and add much to the story since the text moves fast and it might be difficult to visualize the scene the author is trying to create. 

This book screams, READ ME ALOUD!  It’s colorful, funny, and set to rhyme!  I can see it being used in a primary classroom to introduce the season.  (A teacher could take  post-it notes to re-arrange the words to make sense after reading to the students, or even , in have the students create their own silly spoofs on the season.)  I really enjoy books like this and would recommend this for a fun seasonal read.

Leaf Man

Leaf Man comes from popular children’s Author and Illustrator Lois Elhert.  Elhert is known for her collage style of illustrating, using found objects to create colorful and beautiful scenes.  Leaf Man is available in a hardcover edition with glossy printed pages, each scalloped on the top to create a layered effect within the book.

Leaf man has landed in your yard, that’s right, look carefully and you will see the outline of a little man in the leaves.  His body is a bright maple leaf and his hat is an acorn, do you see him now?  Yes, that’s right; it is just like looking for shapes in the clouds.  Each page tells an adventure of the leaves creating movement and shapes out of nature.  The story is very simple, but the story is more than beautiful with the collages and your imagination.

Not only is Leaf Man a beautiful book, it’s the perfect jumping off point for exploring nature and creating your own nature crafts.  Elhert simply introduces how delicate leave can set the scene for anything, just add imagination.  I plan to re-read this with my Lil Guy and go on a leaf hunt in our own yard.  The leafs guys we create will be so much fun!  This book would be perfect for all children who like nature, like to create, and like to imagine.  (That’s all children, right?)

The The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. 

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner is a middle grade fiction book that deals with a very real family situation.  Gianna is a very likable character who loves to run and doesn’t enjoy science class.   When her class is assigned one of those, leaf collection assignments, Gianna quickly gets overwhelmed.  Personally she is dealing with a lot in her family.  Her mother is distant and cold, her father is not understanding and business focused, her little brother is annoying, and her grandmother is loving, but more than forgetful.  Nonna, Gianna’s grandmother, is so forgetful that she wanders away from the family in a farmer’s market in Montreal, she leaves cookies in the oven and goes to take a nap, and she seems to be caught up in her own little world.  All of this scares Gianna, but why doesn’t her family seem to think this is important?

There are not enough books like this that deal with real family issues like memory loss of elderly grandparents.  This book deals with the emotions of the entire family, Nonna’s daughter (Gianna’s mom) being distant and not wanting to face the facts, and Gianna being scared and feeling responsible.  The story is full and emotional, rushing towards a climax that brings everything in Gianna’s life together, and forces her to focus on what’s important.

I liked this book for several reasons.  First, there are not enough family based fiction books that deal with tough subjects like this.  I would recommend it to 5th grade and up.  This book would benefit from a book talk that mentions Alzheimer’s disease, as some readers may already be struggling with this in their family life.  On a side note, the cover really reminds me Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, I thought I had already read it in fact!

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