The air is crisp like biting into the freshly harvested apples found in baskets at the farmer's markets. The skies are crystal clear with a blue so beautiful your breath catches. The trees are putting on their garbs of rich yellows, oranges and reds.
Autumn is an announcement of winter's arrival but it's also a promise of the beauty which comes in spring and summer. The annual and perennial flowers have never looked lovelier, recovering from the heat of July and August. Wonderfall (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 6, 2016) written and illustrated by Michael Hall is an ode to this marvelous season.
In a collection of fourteen poems an oak tree showcases what the season of autumn brings to all the local residents. Using single words as the title for each poem and exchanging fall for the "ful" at the end of each, we are privy to the tree's observations. Even from a stationary stance much can be learned and understood.
It is so quiet, as in the first poem, the sound of the acorns falling can be heard. It's nature's way of saying enjoy the calm but life is still working, hopeful of continuing to another fall. The sound and appearance of school buses Monday through Friday are a reminder of students' and staff's commitments. Autumn is at time of celebrations; festivals and parades.
Frightfall is the night when costumed creatures roam the streets collecting treats. Less than a month later gratitude is expressed and enjoyed inside and outside homes. Sometimes humans leave food readily discovered by animal bandits. This is utterly delightfall.
Rampant winds pull leaves from the tree scattering them for workers to collect. Bare branches extend upward as if to call a greeting to residents leaving for warmer climates. Ending as we begin in silence, a single word heralds a new season.
An exceeding clever concept by Michael Hall brings our attention to the varied facets of a season within the context of human and animal life. Free verse, onomatopoeia, alliteration and rhyming fashion a world and time in motion. With each page turn anticipation is built, as readers wonder how the focus will shift. Here is another poem.
The two squirrels seen among the leaves on the front of the dust jacket are featured throughout the book. You can't help but look for them in each image. The tree branch and leaves extend over the spine toward the left, the back of the jacket, along with a teaser paragrah, an open invitation to read. A stack of large acorns are spread along the bottom of the book case with one, on the right, falling to join the others. The background is a textured collage like the bark seen on the jacket. The opening endpaper is the bold green of a summer leaf. The rusty shade seen on the tree leaves and acorns appears on the closing endpaper.
Rendered digitally by incorporating textures created with acrylic paint and soft pastels all the illustrations are spread across two pages on a pristine white canvas except for several evening and cloudy scenes. The backgrounds serve to highlight the bright colors, a signature piece of Michael Hall's work. It's interesting to note aspects from one image will appear in another visual further into the book. The bear on the child's backpack becomes the school mascot for the parade. A farmer on a tractor in the background comes to the front in a following picture. Careful readers will notice how leaves are used progressively to build a nest for the squirrels in the tree.
One of my favorite illustrations is for the poem, Forcefall. The tree standing on the right is nearly bare of leaves. Several are being blown to the ground, falling on an ever-growing pile. The squirrels' tails are extended by the stiff breeze. A fox has stopped in front of the tree to look straight at the reader.
Wonderfall written and illustrated by Michael Hall is ingenious. I can't think of a seasonal collection being complete without a copy of this book. It will spark discussions and promote creative writing. At the close of the book Hall includes several pages about how nine different animals shown in the images prepare for winter. He explains hibernates and migrates. Two more pages about gray squirrels and acorns follow. On the last page the tree speaks again talking about dormancy. I highly recommend this title.
To discover more about Michael Hall and his other work please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. At the publisher's website you can view the first eight pages. The publisher also has an Instagram post about Hall's other titles. Enjoy the book trailer.
Wonderfall by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books) from Winding Oak on Vimeo.