Monday, November 28, 2016

Goldengrove's Unleaving: Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

Each morning when Fletcher bounded out of the den, everything seemed just a little bit different. The rich green of summer was turning to dusty gold.

And Fletcher the little fox becomes disturbed about what is happening to his favorite tree.

"I think my tree is sick," said Fletcher. "What is wrong?"

"Don't worry. It's just autumn," said his mother.

The tree's leaves are turning russet and brown, and when the first one falls, Fletcher runs to catch the leaf and poke it back into the tree trunk. But the cold wind soon sends many more of the leaves whirling down and away.

"Don't worry, tree. I'll catch them for you!" Fletcher promises.

But Fletcher can't keep up with the swirling, falling leaves that spin out of sight. He sees that he cannot keep his promise to the tree. At last only one leaf clings to a twig. When it falls, he sadly takes it home and makes it a cozy little place to sleep.

But just before dawn Fletcher wakes and tiptoes outside where the tree stands cold and alone.

But it's not bare; in the moonshine, Fletcher sees that his tree is hung with shimmering icicles that twinkle like the starlight.

In Julia Rawlingson's Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (Greenwillow Books, 2016, rev. ed.), the author wisely lets little Fletcher experience fully both the grief of the changes time inevitably brings and yet the hope for what is to come. In this revised paperback edition, the artist Tiphanie Beeke aptly offers lovely new impressionistic illustrations, done in softly pointillist watercolor style, with an emotional depth that heightens the punch of Rawlinson's premise and with her final page filled with a glowing illustration of the bare but beautiful, shimmering tree, perhaps a promise of the yet unspoken spring to come. Says School Library Journal, "Picture books about nature sometimes suffer from cloying, excessively pastoral language or imagery; this rare example succumbs to neither." And Kirkus Reviews adds, "A poetic tribute to winter and fall.... sure to resonate with young readers."

Rawlinson's other sensitive stories of the seasons are Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms, and Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas.

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