November 13, 2023

The Yellow Leaves Are Coming

Written by James Gladstone
Illustrated by François Thisdale
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-9
November, 2023
While some may think that reviewing a book titled The Yellow Leaves Are Coming in November, after many of our leaves have already fallen, may be ill-timed, the story within tells another story. That story starts now, as indicated by this first line:
The yellow leaves are coming, thought the last leaf just fell.
From The Yellow Leaves are Coming, written by James Gladstone, illustrated by François Thisdale
As a young boy and an even younger girl stand out in the grayness of a cool day, they watch a single yellow leaf fall. But as they walk away, accompanied by one of François Thisdale's ubiquitous animals, they anticipate the next seasonal change. They wait and watch as the empty branches do.
From inside they watch the snow come.
I see it falling, growing thick on a hundred cold arms
reaching out for a warm, winter-coat friend.
As the grayness of winter, still magical, passes into the melting season with old leaves revealed to return some colour, the children are again wearing bright rain gear.  Then kids are outside playing baseball without coats and the trees are festooned with green leaves. Even on the balcony of the children's plex, clay pots are again filled with greenery and flowers. And François Thisdale ensures that there's always animal to watch over the seasonal scene, from a black-and-white cat to a rabbit, a butterfly, and blue jay.
From The Yellow Leaves are Coming, written by James Gladstone, illustrated by François Thisdale
The seasons may be changing, with summer transitioning to a return to school and ultimately the return of the yellow leaves, but James Gladstone continues to give us a sensory experience of seeing, hearing, and feeling. He reminds us with every poetic revelation, of the kids listening to the soft rustle of new leaves, slopping through the melting, or watching old leaves floating down curb rivers. And everything will be familiar to many Canadian children, from feeling the weather changing, watching the natural world transform, and altering their own clothes and activities with those changes. But more than telling us about those changes, James Gladstone, who has always blended science with storytelling in a compelling way (see Turtle Pond and A Star Explodes: The Story of Supernova 1054), makes us feel the seasons' changes.
From The Yellow Leaves are Coming, written by James Gladstone, illustrated by François Thisdale
The illustrations have been created by artist  François Thisdale, a recent finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Illustration (French language) for Boucar Diouf's book Le Bourlingueur de Matungoua. Blending drawings with photographs and acrylic painting as well as digital art, François Thisdale makes the illustrations both surreal and very personal. He makes us look closely but just as fittingly he makes us see the big picture. It's quite extraordinary. By giving us both the perspective from the children and of the children, François Thisdale evokes time and place while helping us see and feel what the children might. 

Our own yellow leaves are mostly on the ground now here in southern Ontario but, like the seasons that come and go and come again, I trust that they will appear again. No matter where young readers may be situated, they will recognize the cycle of seasons and nature, and anticipate the next, personalizing what they see just as James Gladstone and François Thisdale have done in The Yellow Leaves Are Coming.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a beautiful book, Helen. Want to read it! -- Monica Kulling