Autumn is upon us, and with Halloween just around the corner I thought it would be fun to review my favorite books for this time of year. It was very hard for me to choose just two because there are so many wonderful books! I may have to do a follow-up blog that includes some of my other faves. The reason I chose these two is because I actively involved the kids either during the story or with a follow-up activity. Keep in mind that it is always a great idea to have children predict what will come next in a story. This is one of the strategies that helps build good future readers. As you finish a page ask your child, “What do you think will happen next?” It’s always fun to hear their answers.
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
Lois Ehlert is by far one of my all-time favorite authors. She does such an amazing job of integrating nature into her books. She usually uses photographs for illustrations, which adds a unique quality to her stories. This book also has creatively cut out pages which makes it even more enjoyable to look at. This story is told in a third-person narrative, and describes the travels of Leaf Man, who used to live in the yard in a pile of leaves. The narrator tells of Leaf Man’s travels, over the marsh, through the fields, above the orchards. There are suppositions of Leaf Man’s destination and the things it sees, including ducks, geese, chickens, cows, turkeys and butterflies. As the story continues Ehlert occasionally inserts the text, “A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows.” The illustrations throughout the book are made up of real leaves that are arranged to look like the flor
a and fauna that Leaf Man encounters throughout its travels. At the end of the book Ehlert writes, “So listen for a rustle in the leaves. Maybe you’ll find a Leaf Man waiting to go home with you.”
The follow-up activity that I used to do with my students is a fun family activity that you can do regardless of where you live (as long as you have some greenery near you). Take a bag with you when you go for a walk and look for and collect leaves of varying colors and shapes, small twigs, acorns, seeds, grass, pebbles. Bring them home and create your own Leaf Man by gluing the leaves, etc., on a sheet of paper (construction paper works best because it is sturdier). The kids loved this activity and it was so much fun to see all the different creations. At the very end of Ehlert’s book she has photographs of the different leaves as well as the names of the leaves.
The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
This is the story of a little old lady who lived in the woods. As the title indicates, she claims that she is not afraid of anything. One day she goes out into the woods to collect some herbs and spices and nuts. She is gone so long that it starts to get dark. All of a sudden she sees two shoes in the middle of the road that go, “CLOMP, CLOMP.” The little old lady responds by saying, “Get out of my way, you two big shoes! I’m not afraid of you.” And on she walks until she comes across a pair of pants that go WIGGLE, WIGGLE. She responds the same way and continues on, with the shoes and pants following her. As she walks through the forest she comes upon a shirt that goes SHAKE, SHAKE, gloves that go CLAP, CLAP, a hat that goes NOD, NOD, and a “very huge, very orange, very scary pumpkin head that goes….BOO! They all chase the little old lady as she runs to her cottage. She gets home, slams the door shut and collapses into her rocking chair. All of a sudden she hears a KNOCK, KNOCK on her door! Should she open it? Who do you think it could be? I won’t spoil the ending for you.
The reason I love this book is because kids love to participate in the reading of the book. Each time a new item of clothing appears it is added to the sequence, so there is a lot of repetition, which makes it easy for kids to join in. Whenever I read the book I would always pause after naming the item of clothing so the kids could make the noise. For example, I’d say, “The two shoes go…….(kids would say, ‘CLOMP, CLOMP!’). The other fun thing I would do was to bring the actual items of clothing to school and let the kids act out what each item did. Whoever had the shoes would “clomp” them on the floor when the kids yelled, “CLOMP, CLOMP!”. The one holding the shirt would shake it while the kids yelled, “SHAKE, SHAKE!” The one holding the pants would wiggle them around when the kids yelled, “WIGGLE, WIGGLE!” This was so much fun, and we had to read the book many times throughout the weeks so that all of the kids could have a turn acting out an item. You can do the same thing at home with your child(ren). If you don’t have the clothes you can google “Activities that go with The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything” and you will find tons of things to do. Below is one such activity where you can print off and cut out the cards and glue them onto Popsicle sticks. The kids can act out the story as you read it.
Kate Glinsmann (she/her) was an owner-partner of BabyNames.com, a lifelong educator with a masters degree in Education. For over 30 years, she worked with preschoolers with special needs, kindergartners, and English language learners.
In her spare time, Kate was a stained glass artist, who built her own studio and gave classes to her local community. Kate was a tireless advocate of those in need, particularly children, mothers and refugees. Kate passed away in December of 2019.