Leaves by David Ezra Stein
As memories of summer fade and the coloration changes to russet reds and orange, I’ve found one perfect book for the youngest of young readers to welcome the entrance of fall. It’s called Leaves and someone no less than renowned children’s picture book writer, Tomie de Paola, gives it enthusiastic thumbs up with this review:
“The best picture book I’ve seen in years. The text and illustrations are just perfect – and I LOVE it.”
Both Tomie and David Ezra Stein, who also happens to be winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, have not forgotten what every successful picture book writer must never lose touch with – what it feels like to be a child.
This simple and beautifully illustrated young bear’s experience of the changing of the seasons in the falling of a single leaf is sweet, innocent and joyful. Its board book format is child sized, sturdy and will stand up to many readings.
The opening lines are evocative of any child’s first experience with change, be it seasonal or societal.
“It was his first year. Everything was going well
until the first leaf fell. “Are you okay?” he wondered.
Then…a red one fell, a yellow one fell, all over his
island the leaves were falling.”
Even the use of the word “island”, suggests the young bear is experiencing and deciphering this natural yearly phenomenon for the first time – alone.
His is curious, playful and full of the thrill of discovery, as he initially attempts to put them back on the trees and failing that, gathers a bunch to stuff in a hole he finds in which to sleep away the snows of winter.
Mr. Stein’s calm and colorful illustrations, coupled with the young bear’s discovery of the cycle of nature as he reemerges to the warmth of the sun and the budding of the new leaves on the trees is quietly assuring to the bear and reader alike.
His dedication tells us where Mr. Stein received his insights into the heart of childhood for they must have been born of a life experience filled with similar forays of discovery and wonder lead by someone who knew the way.
For my mother,
a bear of great heart
and an exceptional human being.
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