This Friday marks the fall equinox and the start of the next season (although it feels as though fall has arrived already with all this rainy rain rain)! In honor of the shift, I wanted to share with you all a list of books. Several years ago, when Rusty was preschool age and I was starting to wrap my brain around what it would mean for him to learn at home, I started collecting seasonal picture books. I knew that keeping the rhythms of the year present in our life was important to me to do in intentional ways beyond just living it. I wanted to share stories and images with Rusty that would resonate with what he was experiencing as he grew and started noticing the cycles himself but that would also open his imagination to the wonder of story and art.
I searched high and low for quality books that would meet those criteria: I wanted to find books with seasonal content, but they also had to have superb story-telling and artwork. It turns out that natural themes often go hand-in-hand with some of the best children’s books, so I found plenty that I fell in love with. Eventually I started organizing my search so that I would end up with about one book to read per week of the year.
It took several years to get to that point, but that’s where we are now — I have two small shelves full of seasonal books, and we generally read about one book per week, chosen because it somehow speaks to our life at that moment in the year. Books featuring fall leaves, for example, we read in October when the leaves on our trees are turning color and falling.
We read picture books outside of these seasonal books too, but I have to be honest and say that these two shelves of seasonal books contain many of my personal favorite picture books. They are books that just get better with every re-read, and since we revisit them every year (and often several times in the week that they are in our book basket), my love by now runs deep.
Since pretty much every person in our CSA has children in their life, I thought I’d share our fall book titles with you, in the hopes that perhaps you will find a new favorite and enjoy a sweet seasonal moment of reading cuddled up with a young one. May you find your imagination opened to seeing the season in new ways, through the eyes of a child.
These are listed in the approximate order that we read them over the fall. Happy reading!
Christopher’s Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow ~ Beskow was a Swedish writer and illustrator whose children’s books often personified elements of the seasons and nature and turned them into delightful stories. In this book, a boy named Christopher is lonely until September (another boy) comes to join him in his garden. They end up playing a game of ball that introduces Christopher to all the early fall sights of the garden, each given human shape and character. Beskow’s drawings and depictions of plants and animals are quite accurate even amidst the fanciful stories.
Autumn by Gerda Muller ~ One of four wordless seasonal board books by this Dutch illustrator-author. In Autumn, children explore different elements of the seasons: splashing in puddles, collecting nuts and mushrooms, building kites to fly in the wind, staying indoors while a storm rages outside … Each spread is simple in its design but deceptively packed with (accurate) natural details for children to discover as they look at the pictures again and again. Suitable for the youngest book lovers. (By the way, Muller is one of our absolute favorite author-illustrators, and I highly recommend any book by her that you can find.)
Fall by Chris L. Demarest ~ This is a simple board book that utilizes clever cut outs, vibrant artwork, and very simple rhyming to evoke the sights, sounds and pleasures of the season. A very short read that will likely be asked to be repeated several times in one sitting because the rhymes are so fun! Suitable for the youngest book lovers.
Flower Fairies of The Autumn by Cicely Mary Barker ~ Barker wrote and illustrated a huge collection of “flower fairy” poems, which each feature one plant personified by a fairy. The poem itself is often written from the plant/fairy’s point of view, and the pictures feature botanically accurate illustrations of that plant with some kind of fairy that shares characteristics with the plant or is somehow interaction with it. Barker was British, and her plants are ones that were common in her home country, but in our experience many of them overlap with species that grow in our area too (sometimes with a different common name).
Spider Watching by Vivian French (ill. by Alison Wisenfeld) ~ A book in the fabulous “Read and Wonder” non-fiction series of children, which pair beautiful illustrations and stories with accurate non-fiction concepts. In this case, the topic is spiders, which we are always more aware of in the fall when spiderwebs shine with mist every morning on the farm. In this story, some children explore the life of a spider in a garden shed and learn how cool spiders really are.
Autumn Story (Brambly Hedge) by Jill Barklem ~ Brambly Hedge is one of my favorite literary finds as an adult — I did not encounter these stories as a child, but I know I would have loved them, and our children certainly do. Over eight stories (published originally as separate books but available now in a complete edition), Barklem has woven a completely engrossing world of small mice who live in fabulous houses inside tree trunks in the English countryside (the houses are drawn using architectural-style cross sections so that young and older minds alike can inhabit them imaginatively). Again, the drawings are accurate, both to natural elements but also to cultural details of life in the English countryside sometime in the past. In this fall story, one young mouse gets lost after wandering away during the fall harvest. Her adventures and rescue make up the story.
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert ~ This story is simple, but the illustrations are what really make it stand out: they are all made out of collages using real fallen leaves. The book is fall in its message and its medium! Our children love identifying the types of leaves used in the illustrations as well.
Katya’s Book of Mushrooms by Katya Arnold ~ This is a longer book than most on my list — suitable to several rounds of reading or a very long reading with an older child. Arnold writes lovingly about her lifelong relationships with mushrooms, beginning in her childhood in Russia. Every page is loaded with information (and stories) about mushrooms and colorfully illustrated by the author. Her pictures are zany, fun and upbeat, and her love for mushrooms is contagious!
The Mushroom Hunt by Simon Frazer (ill. Penny Dale) ~ Another “Read and Wonder” book in which a family goes for a mushroom hunt in the English countryside. Impressionistic (but accurate) illustrations glow with fall’s golden light.
The High Hills (Brambly Hedge) by Jill Barklem ~ Another fall-themed Brambly Hedge story. A young and old mouse go on a mountain adventure together and lose their way but make their way back home via a different route.
The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri ~ In this simple board book, a busy squirrel can’t play because it is too busy preparing for winter. Perfect for the youngest readers!
Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor ~ One of Tudor’s most simple books, this one tells a straightforward story of a girl making a “pumpkin moonshine” (i.e. jack-o-lantern).
Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead by Nancy Luenn (ill. Robert Chapman) ~ A girl celebrates Day of the Dead for the first time since her beloved grandmother died. She tries to feel the presence of her grandmother as she prepares her gift. Describes many of the cultural elements of this holiday in Mexico and features gorgeous mixed media illustrations. Story also printed in Spanish on each page.
Woody, Hazel and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow ~ Another Beskow book featuring fanciful characters depicting accurate parts of nature. Two little acorn boys float away from home on an oak leaf and go on adventures. They are eventually found and rescued by a squirrel and a little girl and go home to receive a huge party in gratitude for their return.
Timmy Tiptoes by Beatrix Potter ~ Potter is of course one of the most classic children’s authors. Two squirrels gather nuts for winter, but then one is pushed into a tree trunk and cannot get back out after he eats too many nuts.
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall (ill. Barbara Cooney) ~ The story of a 19th century New England farmer who takes his year’s worth of farm grown or made goods to town to sell in the fall and then returns home with purchased items for his family, which they use in starting the next year on their farm. Very simple story beautifully illustrated by Barbara Cooney, one of my favorite illustrators.
Chipmunk Song by Joanne Ryder (ill. Lynne Cherry) ~ A child imagines being a chipmunk and goes through a chipmunk’s day, prepares for fall and eventually hibernates through the winter. The illustrations are highly detailed and provide lots of room for the imagination to join the voice of the narrator.
Thanksgiving at Our House by Wendy Watson ~ A collection of little funny poems and rhymes (reminiscent of nursery rhymes) about a large family coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving together. The illustrations themselves tell most of the story as they depict all the preparations and the various stages of the feast, including lots of antics on the part of the children.
Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle (ill. Becca Stadtlander) ~ A CSA member gave us this book, which depicts a contemporary farming family preparing their diverse homestead for the arrival of winter. The illustrations are really sweet and cozy.
By the time we get to December, our reading list shifts strongly to Advent, Christmas and winter-y books (even though technically “winter” doesn’t begin until the solstice at the end of the month). Advent and Christmas books are really worthy of their own list. Perhaps I’ll do another post as we approach that season later in the year!
Until then, Happy Fall! May it be a fall with plenty of variability — golden days mixed in with the foggy mornings and rainy squalls (this week has been mostly rainy squalls!).
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Concord grapes — When you think of “grape flavor,” the flavor that comes to mind is the signature Concord grape flavor. Ours is an old planting — rumor has it the cuttings came on the Oregon Trail itself. They are a taste sensation — sweet and flavorful. And, they also contain small grape seeds, which you can spit out or just chew up and swallow. Both options work just fine, but it’s good to know ahead of time that you’ll be encountering grapes! These make awesome juice too!
- Prune plums
- Melrose apples
- Sweet peppers
- Hot peppers
- Salad mix
- Spaghetti squash
- Delicata squash
John is curious about variety of the hot peppers and I didn’t ask when I was there…