Come, Little Leaves: Two for Fall by Lois Ehlert
The first waves of the coming tsunami of fallen leaves are beginning to break, reminding us that the season is changing. It's time to turn to the science of leaves, which, thanks to the uproarious display offered by North American trees, is always a pleasant occupation.
There's no better source for the picture book set than the artful books of Lois Ehlert, whose earlier Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf takes the reader along on a close look at the life cycle of a maple tree through the eyes of a child who plants and tends it. Ehlert's collage technique utilizes unique materials as well as stunning paintings to make us look, really look, at the wonder that is the leaf and the tree.
In her 2006 book Leaf Man, Ehlert has found a new medium for her collage. Despairing of the possibility of incorporating the fragile texture and colors of real leaves in her collages, she hit upon the idea of photocopying autumn leaves as she found them and using the copies to create the layouts which fill her pages. Set against gorgeous backgrounds using varied texture and color, her charmingly witty leaf art collages fill her die-cut pages, which ripple like river banks, curve like hillsides, and zigzag like the tops of fir trees.
The unifying story is slight but evocative. "Leaf Man," an anthropomorphic fellow made up of maple, beech, and gingko leaves, with a sweet gum ball for a mouth and acorns for eyes, is blown away by the autumn winds, leaving "no travel plans." "A Leaf Man's got to go where the wind blows," is the recurring refrain as Leaf Man sails past leaf chickens, leaf geese, leaf pumpkins and squash, leaf turkeys and cows, and leaf turtles and fish. Where does he land? Ehlert doesn't tell, but she does advise "...listen for a rustle in the leaves. Maybe you'll find a Leaf Man waiting to go home with you."
Again, Ehlert's art summons forth our ability to see the detail in a pile of windblown leaves, to see the individual colors, spots and all, and the shapes of the fall leaves all around us. Backing up the sensual experience of her text, the endpapers are filled with colorful leaves identified by their source tree, while the dust jacket flaps display "mystery leaves" and the various places they were found, from Santa Fe to Wisconsin to Orlando.
Just right for early childhood education, these books combine a playful and aesthetic experience coupled with botanical information, but their lasting value is that of inspiring a walk among the trees to look for, and really see, those "signs of fall."