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Picture books for the first day of fall

Happy first day of fall! Heat up some cider or cocoa, snuggle in, and share these autumnal picture books for a perfect celebration of the season. All of the titles below were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online.

Chernesky, Felicia Sanzari  From Apple Trees to Cider, Please!
Gr. K–3    32 pp.     Whitman     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-8075-6513-1

Illustrated by Julia Patton. At an apple orchard, a red-haired girl and mom pick apples and help turn them into cider. The bouncy rhyming text celebrates the process and all things fall: scarecrows, mums, and the festival of pies and apple cider donuts at book’s end. Cartoonish illustrations bursting with greens, oranges, and russets are a touch askew, with popped perspectives and mysterious hands operating the cider press.

Detlefsen, Lisl H.  Time for Cranberries
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Roaring Brook     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-098-5

Illustrated by Jed Henry. Sam is finally old enough to participate in the fall cranberry harvest on his parents’ farm. From the flooding of the cranberry marshes to the booming, corralling, suctioning, cleaning, and delivering, details of the harvest are informative. The illustrations’ reds, yellows, and oranges create a vibrant and cozy fall setting. Recipes and an author’s note are appended. Glos.

Hall, Michael  Wonderfall
PS     40 pp.     Greenwillow     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-238298-6

After shapes (Perfect Square) and colors (Red), Hall turns to a season: autumn. Invented adjectives (beautifall, plentifall, wistfall, etc.) form the titles of short verses, narrated by an oak tree, that take readers through the season. Spreads include many animals, all of which are described further in back matter. Hall’s exuberant style, with bright colors and crisp, digitally rendered shapes, is engaging.

Holland, Loretta  Fall Leaves
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Houghton     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-10664-2

Illustrated by Elly MacKay. Two children experience fall in a northern temperate climate. Clever wordplay explores various indicators of seasonal change: “Flowers Leave…Leaves Fall…Fall Stays…Fall Leaves.” Under each poetic large-type phrase, brief commentaries explain the related astronomical and ecological principles at work. Collage illustrations with a three-dimensional effect depict the children biking, boating, hiking, and relaxing during glorious autumn days.

McNamara, Margaret  The Apple Orchard Riddle
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Random/Schwartz & Wade     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-84744-8
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-95744-4

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Mr. Tiffin’s class (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?) takes a field trip to the apple orchard. The story focuses on Tara, whose daydreaming causes her to lag behind the group but helps her solve Mr. Tiffin’s apple-themed riddle. Gouache, acrylic, and pencil illustrations combine crisp lines and hazy colors to call forth a perfect apple-picking day. Summarizing apple orchard facts are appended.

Miller, Pat Zietlow   Sophie’s Squash
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Random/Schwartz & Wade     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-307-97896-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-307-97897-4

Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Sophie loves her friend Bernice. But Bernice is aging, and it’s clear her life is nearing its end. Sophie is sad. What saves this from being saccharine is a single, brilliant narrative stroke: Bernice is a squash. It’s a good joke, fully supported by Wilsdorf’s disheveled, lumpy, personality-rich characters and rooted in kids’ loyalties to their stuffed animals and other endowed objects.

O’Brien, Anne Sibley  Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!
PS     24 pp.     Abrams/Abrams Appleseed     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2125-0

Illustrated by Susan Gal. From the creators of Abracadabra, It’s Spring! comes an homage to another season. Simple rhyming text incorporating magic words leads to gatefolds revealing fall’s transformations: “Chipmunks dig / their burrows deep. / Sim sala bim! / They’re fast asleep.” Illustrated with richly colored charcoal and digital-collage art, this is a perfect choice for autumn storytimes.

Pak, Kenard  Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn
PS     32 pp.     Holt     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62779-415-2

“Hello, late summer morning,” says a young girl in a red scarf. She greets the trees, animals, thunder, etc., and each answers her (“Hello! Now that the cool winds have come, we love how our branches sway in the sun”). The friendly conversation is illustrated with digitally enhanced watercolor and pencil art; the pictures reveal inviting details not mentioned in the text.

Stringer, Lauren  Yellow Time
PS     40 pp.     Simon/Beach Lane     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-3156-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-3157-6

Evoking the experience of watching leaves falling en masse, acrylic and watercolor paintings feature swirls and swoops of yellow leaves against black tree trunks and branches. One by one, children (and a dog) head outdoors, full of anticipation. There are no surprise twists, just a gentle appreciation of the joys of using your senses to notice the seasons turn.

Wright, Maureen  Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze!
PS     32 pp.     Cavendish    2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7614-5959-0

Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. One blustery fall day, Big Bear (Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep!) thinks his sneezes are causing seasonal changes (e.g., leaves falling from the trees, geese flying away). It’s really the wind, who doesn’t hesitate to set Big Bear straight: “I DO IT ALL — I’M THE AUTUMN BREEZE!” The clueless bear’s misunderstandings are endearing, and Hillenbrand’s autumnal mixed-media illustrations are reliably eye-pleasing.

Yee, Wong Herbert  My Autumn Book
PS     32 pp.     Holt/Ottaviano     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-9922-5

A young girl (Tracks in the Snow; Who Likes Rain?; Summer Days and Nights) roams her yard with backpack and camera. In a rhyming text, she identifies specimens (cicada, woodpecker, dogwood, etc.), takes pictures, collects acorns and leaves, then makes a scrapbook — to look at when winter comes. Yee’s illustrations vary (full-page, spot art, and everything in between), giving viewers lots to look at.

Yoon, Salina  Penguin and Pumpkin
PS     40 pp.     Walker     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-8027-3732-8
Library binding ISBN 978-0-8027-3733-5

In his fourth book, Penguin and the gang — sans little brother Pumpkin — travel by ice floe to experience autumn on a farm. As expected, it’s glorious — brimming with pumpkins and falling leaves, some of which they bring home to share with Pumpkin. The appeal here, as usual, is Yoon’s thick-lined digital illustrations with clean, saturated colors and adorable characters.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.



  1. Sam Juliano says:

    Love them all. And of course there is that ravishing picture book of autumn photos by April Sayre that is under the Caldecott radar. Rust colored resplendence.

  2. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    Good call, Sam! I’d like to shout out two brand-new books: the Sayre you mentioned, Full of Fall, and Kevin Henkes & Laura Dronzek’s In the Middle of Fall. HB hasn’t published a review of either yet but both look beautiful!

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