November Books: Autumn Bonanza of Tempting Tales

By on November 6, 2012

by Meribeth C. Shank

As the hours of daylight decrease, and the harvest season tilts away from the heat of summer, these energetic stories offer a simultaneously invigorating and reassuring advance, into an interval of robust intensity. Add relish to your story times with these affectionate tales.

Frisky Brisky Hippity Hop based on a poem by Alexina B. White, with new verses by Susan Lurie, photographs by Murray Head.  Holiday House, $16.95, Ages 3-5

Adapted by children’s book editor and author Lurie, from a favorite poem for younger children — first published more than 140 years ago by White — this lively book uses spirited language to match perfectly with Head’s vigorous photos. Rhythmic rhymes define New York City’s Central Park squirrels, whose images celebrate both the park itself, and its most popular, and agile, residents.

Capturing the vivacious rodents throughout the day, readers (through the photographers camera eye) can glimpse these creatures hopping, scampering, wiggling, and nearly flying as they evade a predatory hawk, play in pairs, nibble a peanut, build a nest, and tuck away to sleep. The brief text, seamlessly integrates new verses with old, and flawlessly links with the close-up photos to concentrate readers’ attention on the acrobatic stars. This perfect book features the exuberance of autumn, ably demonstrated by one of nature’s best-known mammals.

George Flies South by Simon James.  Candlewick Press, $16.99, Ages 3-8

Although winter is on the way and birds are flying south, and it’s time for bird George to learn to fly — he’s not quite ready! Ink and watercolor illustrations show the gusting wind and the unstable nest, while George waits for Mom to bring some worms.

As daily life in the autumn city progresses, George, in his nest, becomes airborne! Pastels color the cars, grass, sky, people’s clothing, and more, giving the slightly cartoonish illustrations an energetic liveliness, and adding movement to the story.

The dialog between George and Mom keeps the story centered:  and like a child learning to walk, shows excitement on his part, and encouragement from her. In an especially reassuring vignette, Mom is perched on an under-construction building piling, watching over a sleeping George as night arrives, and grey-blue shadows fall.

Curled in the nest as it travels from car top (blown from the original tree), to a boat, carrying wooden planks (after floating off the auto as it crossed a bridge), later lifted by a crane to the high-rise, George has rather enjoyed his adventure – due, in large part, to mom’s fluttering nearby, and, just as important, his nest.  When he’s launched once again, the nest disintegrates, and he must, finally, rescue himself.

The satisfying ending, simultaneously reassuring and intrepid, features Mom’s predictable “I knew you could do it,” followed by George’s final words, “I’m ready to fly south now.  Let’s go! I hope there’s lots of worms . . . “

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee.  Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 3-7

Night is not the only place to find stars, although it is the place where this lovely book begins – and ends. Award-winning illustrator Frazee, using graphite, gouache, and gel pens, opens with an expanding evening sky, amplifying images evoked by author Ray’s lyrical text.

Multiple figures on a single page summon readers’ into the story – as a child draws a star to keep in a pocket, share with a friend, or use to augment imagination. While double page spreads show “days you don’t feel shiny,” a profusion of snowflake energy and dandelion stardust. The skilled fusion of sometimes dancing paintings with lilting language, stirs memories, conjures experiences, and kindles anticipation.

You can find stars — on mossy tree trunks, on plants that promise a later season’s fruit, or seeds — if you lose yours. Or, perhaps you can earn stars.  Even buttons or snowflakes are star reminders. But it’s the immensity of the night sky, both with and without fireworks, that truly captures not only the author’s and artist’s attention, but draws the reader toward the “Every night. Everywhere” ending of profound restorative abundance.

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, teaches classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College.  You can also find her on the web: http://meribeths.blogspot.com

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