There is a rich and artful palette of releases in children’s books this fall — books about the seasons, about the sun and the moon, and about imparting ideas around compassion and empathy. All that is expressed in illustrations and texts that reach gently into hearts.
“Say It!” by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Charlotte Voakeis This is a re-release of a book first on the shelves in 1980. It evokes senses of an autumn day as a child and her mother walk together. “Say It!” entreats the child throughout the walk, as her mother extols the colors and sight and sounds of the season, the wind and the leaves. What are the magic words she is looking for?
“Sing a Season Song” by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Lisel Jane Ashlock This book provides enchanting depictions of nature’s woodland creatures throughout the cycles of the year. Yolen provides a short text that travels subtly through each page like a turn of the seasons.
“How the Sun Got to Coco’s House” written and illustrated by Bob Graham The sun travels throughout the world on the pages of this book. As Coco climbs into bed at night with her dog at her side, and receives final hugs and kisses from her mother and father, the sun is rising in a faraway and very cold land. The sun travels over the sea, in snowy climes and warm ones, in the city and in the country. Illustrations show the sun’s light reflected off of a bird’s wing and from the paperboy’s bell. Then magically it appears in Coco’s house and in her backyard where it stays to warm a cold winter’s day.
“Mr. Squirrel and the Moon” written and illustrated by Sebastian Meschenmoser. In this book, the lunar cycle is reflected upon in the style of a folk tale. Mr. Squirrel wakes to find not the sun, but the moon on his tree. A full moon, very difficult to move. Meschenmoser’s humorous portrayal of Mr. Squirrel’s predicament includes some concerns that he will be blamed for stealing the golden orb. Black and white pencil drawings include pictures of the bushy tailed rodent and his animal friends in a jail cell. After much work on all the creatures’ part, the moon is returned to the sky. However, the moon isn’t quite the way they originally found it.
“I Am a Bear” written and illustrated by Jean-Francois Dumont This read lightly touches on the plight of the homeless and depicts a bear housed in cardboard boxes on the streets of the city. He does not know how he landed in this predicament, but struggles to make his way, and tries to appear invisible to passersby to avoid any confrontation — until a small child notices and reaches out to him. This book is written so discreetly, it can be read on many levels, the story of a bear left behind on the street, or with some heartfelt discussion, an honest representation of the homeless people found on city streets.
“Crenshaw” by Katherine Applegate Homeless. Hard to conceive of for some children, a fact of life for others. This short chapter book is ideal for 8 to 12 year-olds to read independently, but it also works well as a family read-aloud as it creates opportunities for conversation. The book might be healing for children who have lost their homes and, perhaps, think it is a unique situation. Jackson and his family are about to be evicted from their home for the second time in his life. They previously lived in their van for a few months. Jackson can see that they are headed that way once again – his mother and father, although hardworking cannot seem to make ends meet. Jackson, a boy who believes in scientific facts and figures, is joined in times of crisis by an imaginary friend, Crenshaw, a giant and rather unruly cat. It is never too early to share stories emulating compassion and empathy with our children.
Laurie Collins is the Children’s Librarian at Ipswich Public Library in Ipswich, MA. She is author of “The Pajamas of My Dreams” and is a Mass Literacy Champion.