The Leaf Thief

The Leaf Thief
Alice Hemming and Nicola Slater

Much as I hate to admit it, there are already signs that autumn is upon us and yes, it is as Squirrel says at the outset of this story,  ‘a wonderful time of the year’ with the sun shining through the leafy canopy ‘red, gold, orange … ‘

This particular squirrel however, is a highly observant creature for suddenly comes the cry …” one of my leaves is missing! Where is it?’.

So distressed is Squirrel that implications of stealing follow as first Bird

and then Mouse are interrogated, all the while the former attempting to convince Squirrel that it’s merely seasonal change that’s occurring.

The following morning though, with more leaves missing, Squirrel starts up again and after more accusations, little Bird suggests some relaxation techniques.

These at least calm Squirrel temporarily but next day poor Bird is on the receiving end of Squirrel’s ‘leaf thief’ allegations.

It’s time for the frustrated Bird to provide a fuller explanation about this ‘Leaf Thief’ and convince Squirrel once and for all about what has been happening.

Finally Squirrel seems satisfied and heads off for a good night’s sleep. What though will happen the following morning? …

Let’s say no more, except that the finale almost had me spluttering my hot chocolate everywhere.

Actually not the absolute finale, for on that spread Alice gives information about some of the seasonal changes that happen every autumn. Her story, told entirely through dialogue is a smashing one to read aloud (so long as you can manage not to giggle too much).

Nicola’s autumnal scenes provide the perfect complement to the telling, showing with aplomb, the high drama unfolding, and turning the characters into a talented cast of actors no matter whether they’re playing a major or minor role.

Pick a Pumpkin

Pick a Pumpkin
Patricia Toht and Jarvis
Walker Books

Bursting with mellow fruitfulness is this second offering from Patricia Toht and Jarvis.

We join a family as they go to the pumpkin patch to take their pick from the plethora of orange, white and speckled green fruits of the vine.

Then after a pause for some seasonal treats en route they return home with a loaded van ready to start carving.

And so they do, amassing the appropriate tools just in time for the arrival of a whole ‘pumpkin carving crew’ who are ready and willing to join in the fun.

It truly is a hands on, tactile experience as, once the tops are removed, hands are plunged inside to grab the innards as they pull at ‘Lumpy chunks. Sticky strings. Clumpy seeds. Guts and things.’

Then comes the really artful part; carving the faces for a wonderful array of creations with their frowns, grins, smirks and snarls, eerie, or angry or forming a kiss.

After that it’s time for decorations, donning costumes, taking those carved faces outside and with adult help lighting the lights that transform mere pumpkins to grinning, glowing jack-o-lanterns ready to stand guard as you venture forth to join in the fun.

With its easy on the ear, rhyming narrative and Jarvis’ scenes all a-glow with rich autumnal colours, what better way to kick off those Halloween celebrations than with a reading of this magical book with youngsters?


Sam Usher
Templar Publishing

The fourth of Sam Usher’s series of picture books about a little boy and his grandfather continues to celebrate their special relationship.

It’s a very blustery autumn morning and when the little boy wakes up he sees leaves flying, dancing and tumbling down.

Eager to get outside, he calls his Grandad who suggests flying a kite. First though they have to find it.
During their search they rediscover several items – a cricket bat, letters and a telescope that bring back memories of previous adventures – until finally, they find the kite.

Off they set under a stormy-looking sky to the park

where they discover lots of other kite fliers. “Hold on tight,” calls Grandad as their fantasy adventure begins.

Up, up, up they go swooping and twisting as the sky is filled with an amazing, colourful array of kites of all different  shapes and patterns.

The wind intensifies and the boy lets go of the kite string. Luckily though, Grandad catches it “There’s a storm brewing!

Let’s head for home,” he urges and they do.

Back indoors, as the storm rages outside, they share some tea and Grandad declares, “The best adventure is an adventure shared.” And so it is, just like the one herein: what better prelude to a kite-flying foray than this.

With russet, gold, orange and brown hues, and a darkening grey, Sam Usher’s watercolour and ink illustrations  capture so well both the trees’ autumnal foliage and the brooding nature of the storm.

Little Adventurers: What Bear? Where? / Autumn

Little Adventurers: What Bear? Where?
Philip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick
Walker Books
Peanut, Floss, her little brother, Sprat and Finnegan, the four little adventurers who hold weekly club meetings in their very own shed HQ are back. Now they’re on the trail of animals in the garden where they head with collecting jars, magnifying glass and binoculars at the ready.
Inevitably, there are misidentifications: Peanut’s snake turns out to be a hosepipe …

and Peanut’s giant egg is in fact Sprat’s long-lost ball; and Peanut forgets that things look much bigger when viewed through a magnifying glass.
The creepy crawlies search however is more fruitful with several minibeasts being found;

but the most important find of all is that of a furry animal – a very special one indeed. In fact that’s the only one that doesn’t get released back into the wild at the end of the day.
As well as the entertaining story, there is a whole lot to see and enjoy by way of visual detail: posters, signs, speech bubbles and occasional font changes, all of which are embedded within Elissa Elwick’s zany illustrations.
Another Little Adventurers story that will, one hopes, spark the imaginations of curious adventurers around the ages of Peanut et al.
More of the natural world in:

David A.Carter
Abrams Appleseed
This is the third of the author’s seasonal pop-up books and as always Carter’s paper-engineering is amazing.
We start at ground level with a variety of squashes bursting forth from the centre-fold surrounded by a scattering of other flora and fauna and there’s ‘a chill in the air’.
Turn over and clever cutting allows you to make some of the leaves appear to be falling from the oak tree …

behind which wild turkeys roam and a river winds, providing a home for some otters. On winds the river through fields, ‘full of life’ widening out to a place where beavers have built a dam and lodge.
Next stop is a wheat field, ripe and ready for cutting for, as the final spread informs, ‘Winter is coming: it’s time to harvest.’
Full of mellow fruitfulness this lovely book certainly is, albeit USA style, but that can be an interesting talking point as well as an opportunity for widening horizons.

The Road Home / Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!


The Road Home
Katie Cotton and Sarah Jacoby
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
What a beauty this is: Katie Cotton’s gentle cadences combine with picture book artist Sarah Jacoby’s atmospherically beautiful illustrations to create a memorable evocation of the approach of winter.
Fly with me to far away, / where sun still warms the ground. / For winter’s in the dying light/ and in that windswept sound.’ the mother bird says to her young one as they prepare to leave the safety of their nest and undertake a long, arduous flight together.


It’s a flight that will take them and readers on a meditative journey as a mouse builds a nest for her little one and rabbits flee from wolves hunting their prey.


Yes, nature is hard, brutal at times, and this is no cosy picture woven here from words and pictures; rather it’s a powerfully gripping contemplation of the contrasting harshness and stark beauty of life in the wild ‘This road is hard, this road is long.’ we’re told over and over, but at the same time it’s a reassuring one: ‘ … we are not alone. / For you are here, and I’m with you … / and so this road is home.
The impact of this book is slow-burning: it’s an impact that grows with each re-reading, with the words and landscapes lingering in the mind long after the covers have been closed.


Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!
Anne Sibley O’Brien and Susan Gal
Abrams Appleseed
The same partnership that brought us the lovely Abracadabra It’s Spring! has moved the focus to the autumn, as it’s called in the UK. It’s the time when the long summer days are already getting shorter, the temperature starts to drop, the leaves are just beginning to get those tinges of orange and gold and school opens once more. Everywhere are signs of change: seed pods burst scattering an abundance of feathery ‘clouds’…


birds get ready to fly to warmer climes and the trees are glowing in a multitude of glorious colours.
In a short time, ‘Chilly gusts/ toss leaves around. / Shazam!‘ And a carpet of leaves covers the ground just waiting for children to frolic and kick them skywards. What joy!


This is the season for squirrels to start laying away food for their winter store, there’s an abundance of delicious fruit to be picked and cooked …


or hollowed and made into pumpkin faces. Some animals curl up in their burrows for a long sleep and we humans dig out our warmer clothes and delight in all the season brings…
All of this is celebrated in pictures verbal and visual. Eleven gate-folds open up to reveal Gal’s glorious extended scenes to delight the eye and complement O’Brien’s exciting rhyming text.