The beautiful colors of leaves in the fall is a great time to catch the attention of children to the trees growing around them. Lois Ehlert’s book, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, is a wonderful tool to use for this purpose giving all sorts of interesting information about growing, transplanting, and enjoying trees. Although the cover and title focus on the fall, the whole growing season is covered giving the features of the tree during each season.
The story is told by a child and concerns a family maple tree purchased from a nursery. The child begins by describing the seed pods whirling to the ground and sprouting, leaves unfolding, and roots growing. After the family purchases the tree from a nursery and Dad plants it, birds come for treats in winter, flowers and fruits are produced in spring, a bushy green crown is produced in summer, and the leaves turn to red and yellow in fall. A simple, lovely story. In an additional section at the end of the book Ehlert present scientific information on leaves, roots, sap, bark, seeds, tree flowers, and buds as well as directions for selecting and planting a tree.
The visual enhancements of the story are outstanding! Using collage, paper cutouts, string, fabric, metal, and other materials Ehlert creates bold designs set against a background of strong color. The emphasis is on nature and the human element is only slightly suggested. The narrative is presented in large bold letters with smaller captions identifying a bird or other items in a picture, a nice aid for adults reading the story aloud to young children. One small flaw; in the story the tree is collected by the nursery from a woods, not the usual practice any more as a note in the beginning of the book points out. You can’t help but wonder why the book was not updated. Too bad, but still a great book for introducing young children to the beauty of trees.