Wellington turns a leaf-identification book into a visual display of fall color and shape.
Readers learn along with a young redheaded girl as she visits an arboretum to collect leaves for her own leaf book. Alternating double-page spreads show each tree in the arboretum and the girl cataloging the leaves and sometimes doing something with them—leaf rubbings, drawing pictures, adding the leaves to her book. Readers are treated to a look at what she’s written in her book, and small fact boxes give further information about the leaf, its tree, and how to identify it, including some vocabulary—“simple,” “compound,” “leaflet.” The pictures are the real draw, however. Done with gouache, watercolor, and collages of rubbings, prints, and photocopies, they are a mix of realistic and whimsical. The illustrations of the full trees break down both the tree and its leaves into basic geometric shapes. Trees are represented as rounded, often circular or oval masses of leaves on skinny, rectangular trunks. Gingko leaves are triangles, sweet gum leaves are stars, and there are other familiar shapes as well; these patterns are writ small in the leaves and large in shapes that take up most of the trees’ canopies.
While its true usefulness as an identification guide may be questionable, there’s no doubt it will capture children’s attention and hopefully have them searching for their own specimens and creating leaf books of their own. (Informational picture book. 4-8)