Awesome Autumn: Wonderfall by Michael Hall
The first acorn of autumn falls. The squirrels rejoice and go into their fall feeding and harvest frenzy. Color begin to bloom here and there among the green leaves.
In Dutifall, the big yellow school bus appears at the corner, and the dutiful, but rueful kids clamber on with their new backpacks and new shoes. But then, as if trying to make up for it, it's Beautifall, with the oak tree dressed in its best, its brightest colors. And then...
Crates of new-picked apples and late vegetables reveal the plentiful harvest. And then comes Frightfall, with kids disguised as black cats and ghosts and grinning jack-o' lanterns, carrying plastic cauldrons filled with colored candies.
But not all of us are as joyful as the squirrels and sweets-loving kids. The end of summer brings cooling breezes and its own colors, but also a sort of nostalgia for the promise of spring and the fullness of summer we now know is past.
Michael Hall's Wonderfall (Greenwillow Books, 2016) captures the beauty and the familiar rituals of fall, the green of his oak tree giving way to new colors, the school bus reappearing at the corner, the richness of the harvest and the chores of raking and mulching. Then comes Frightfall, with the disguises and giggles of the trick-or-treaters, and then the first strong, harsh winds that strip the last browning leaves from the tree, now bare, "the beauty of the bone," as poet John Updike puts it. Then comes Wistfall, as we say goodbye to the geese and the other retreating creatures. And then comes Watchfall...
With a lyric sense of the longing and beauty that autumn brings, Hall's new book bring simple spare verse, arranged vertically like his iconic tree, that itself becomes the setting for each stage of the passage through the season, from the first acorn's fall to the snowfall that brings out the sleds. Living mostly in the present, children still have a sense of nostalgia about the passage of time, symbolized here by the tree, in which the only constants are its squirrels. But the tree has its own voice, as it goes its pro tem dormancy.
The author's wordplay with the sound of the prefix "ful" and "fall" adds whimsical but poignant meaning as it comes down at last to a snowful scene of the first snowfall of winter. Artist Hall digitalizes his acrylic-painted cut paper illustrations, moving in double-page spreads as time makes its linear progress with every page turn through the season. Bold colors and geometric shapes give this book a look that will appeal to the youngest, but older primary readers will feel the undercurrent of emotion that the changing of the seasons, the relentless passage of time, brings. Among the seasonal concept books of the year, Wonderfall is the one book to choose, a must-have purchase for public and school libraries. "A haunting journey through autumn and a lovely triumph," writes Kirkus in their starred review.