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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Falling into Autumn

Burning leaves, apple picking, football games, and cooler weather. Fall is finally here!!! Personally, I would be perfectly content to live somewhere where it is fall year round. Without getting into Halloween or Thanksgiving (since those holidays deserve their own respective posts) here are a few of my favorite fall picture books and crafts to share with little ones.

My youngest son at the apple orchard:)
Of course, it would not be fall without a visit to an apple orchard. My family has gone to the same apple orchard every fall for years and we always have an amazing time. (FYI: Klackles in Greenville, Michigan is awesome if you are looking for a fun fall day trip with your kiddos!). Before you go, read some picture books about apples and orchards.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson is a gorgeous, interactive picture book perfect for talking about changing seasons. On the opening page the tree is bare and stark , but a tap from the reader sprouts a green leaf. With each turn of the page there is an action that results in seasonal changes on the tree: pink blossoms transform into ripe red apples, green leaves turn yellow then orange and red before blowing away on a breeze, and naked branches are covered in a blanket of snow.

If you want a few more details about the growth cycle of apples try Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. Colorful collages by Shari Halpern depict an apple tree from the first green leaves to ripe red apples ready to pick. There is even a recipe for apple pie.

You can never have too much apple pie and Amelia Bedelia's First Apple Pie by Herman Parish also includes a recipe at the end of the story. If you grew up reading the original Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish you should give the updated series written by her nephew, Herman, a try. The newer books are beautifully illustrated and feature a young Amelia Bedelia in more modern settings and situations.

With vivid illustrations and simple text Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. This first glimpse into an apple farmer's life will show young readers how Annie picks, sorts, and sells apples and uses them to make scrumptious treats.

Older children will love Deborah Hopkinson's delightful picture book, Apples to Oregon. This tall tale reminiscent of Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan is very loosely based on the real life of Henderson Luelling who did actually transport wagons of fruit trees west via the Oregon Trail in 1847. Hopkinson's hilarious and made up version of Luelling's story stars his daughter, Delicious, and is accompanied by Nancy Carpenter's brilliant oil paintings.

Here is a torn paper pumpkin.
In addition to picking and eating apples, or making yummy treats like homemade apple pie or applesauce, you can make paper plate apples. If you do not want to paint them you can color them with markers or crayons, or use torn construction or tissue paper. Tearing paper into tiny pieces may seem silly but it is actually an excellent pre-writing activity for little ones, because it helps to strengthen the small muscles in their hands and fingers. As you can probably tell, I always have paper plates (small and large) in the craft cupboard because you can use them for so many different things.

Speaking of pumpkins Mr. Murray and Thumbkin by Karma Wilson is a story that I read every fall. I love it because it is one of the few picture books that has a pumpkin in it but is not specifically about Halloween. This retelling of the classic ant and grasshopper fable features two mice. Mr. Murray works all day collecting food and preparing his snug teapot home for winter, whereas, Thumbkin fritters the days away singing and playing. When winter arrives Thumbkin's pumpkin house collapses and Mr. Murray kindly offers to take him in but realizes that he did not store enough food for two mice. Luckily their is plenty of pumpkin to eat and enough seeds to plant more in the spring.

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri is a simple and bright picture book about a hardworking animal preparing for the winter.  Cats, dogs, frogs, and birds repeatedly ask the squirrel to play with them but he is far too busy collecting corn, apples, seeds, etc. to store in his nest. I have yet to meet a toddler who does not enjoy a book that allows them to make animal noises.

Married author and illustrator, Philip and Erin Stead, first collaborated on the adorable picture book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (which won the 2011 Caldecott Medal). In my opinion their second book, Bear Has a Story to Tell, is even more charming. Bear wants to tell a story to his friends but they are all getting ready for the impending winter. Being kind-hearted and generous Bear helps his friends before crawling into his own den to hibernate. When spring finally arrives the friends reunite, but bear can no longer remember his story. Duck, Frog, Mouse, and Mole help him tell a new story about a bear who helped his friends in the fall. Kindness, friendship, and compassion are central themes to A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Bear Has a Story to Tell and I absolutely adore Erin's somewhat muted but beautiful and highly detailed illustrations. And as if I needed another reason to be a fan of Philip and Erin Stead's work they are from Ann Arbor, Michigan (my old stomping grounds: GO BLUE!!!)

Ok, the last book I am going to share is Leaves by David Ezra Stein which as you can see is also about a bear in the fall.  I think that I include one Stein's picture books in every post, because I just love his work. Leaves, Ol' Mama Squirrel, Interrupting Chicken, etc. they are all just so much fun to read. Poor bear thinks that the trees are sick when their leaves begin to fall off. Little ones are sure to giggle when he tries to make them better by sticking the leaves back on. Saddened and drowsy Bear fills a hole with fallen leaves and crawls in. After sleeping all winter Bear is very relieved to see new green leaves budding on the trees.

Leaf rubbings are a super easy and fun fall craft. All you need is plain white paper, old crayons, and leaves (which are laying all over the place this time of year).

Another fun craft that you can do for any season is finger painted trees. I do these with green and pink for spring and summer; red, orange, yellow, and brown for autumn; and white for winter (just use blue paper so the white shows up).
I have also finger painted Indian Corn in story time, but this year I had used paint so often that I decided to glue cheerios. The multigrain cheerios have better colors but you can use regular or get wild and use fruit loops. I cut the corn shape out of old file folder dividers which are stiffer than paper and a cream color. Also, we had about two billion of them donated to the library so I like finding crafts that use them.

If you have been around for any length of time you have probably noticed that I sing a lot. Let me apologize because I am well aware that I do not have a spectacular voice. Even if you cannot carry a tune in a bucket, singing is great way to help babies and toddlers develop language skill not to mention it is just happy and fun. I promise that kids do not really care what you sound like. That is until they are teenagers and are embarrassed by everything you do. Scarecrow Scarecrow (sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and Autumn Leaves are Falling Down (sung to the tune of London Bridges) are songs that I love to use during story time in the fall. They are easy because you already know the tune. Even better they have motions and anyone with a toddler knows the importance of wearing them out.

Here they are:

Scarecrow Scarecrow
Scarecrow, scarecrow turn around
Scarecrow, scarecrow touch the ground
Stand up tall and blink your eyes
Raise your hands up to the sky
Clap your hands, then tap your knees
Turn around and tap your feet
Scarecrow, scarecrow touch your toes
Scarecrow, scarecrow tap your nose
Swing your arms so very slow
Now real fast to scare the crows
Touch your head, jump up and down
Now sit down without a sound

The motions with this one are pretty self explanatory.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves are falling down
falling down, falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down
All around the town
Some are yellow, some are brown
some are brown, some are brown
Some are yellow, some are brown
All around the town
Some are orange and some are red
some are red, some are red
Some are orange and some are red
falling on my head.

With this one I give kids leaves of each color which they have to wave in the air when they hear it.