cover image Leaves


David Ezra Stein, . . Putnam, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24636-4

Stein's (Cowboy Ned and Andy ) pen-and-ink illustrations conjure a place readers will wish they could visit, a tiny island that pokes up out of a bay. Drawn in mossy greens and golds, the island is home to a very young bear—so young that when the leaves start falling in the autumn, he's a little shocked: “He tried to catch them and put them back on... but it was not the same.” The bear doesn't despair; he grows sleepy, goes off to hibernate and wakes in the spring. This set of events is depicted in a series of panels trained on the entrance to the bear's den; the single tree above it loses its leaves, is blanketed by snow, and receives visits first by a rabbit and then by a pair of cardinals.) Eventually the bear sticks his head back out to greet the spring sunshine and spies the tiny buds on the trees. “ 'Welcome!' he cried. And, he thought, the leaves welcomed him.” Many things contribute to the success of Stein's tale: the joyously colored panels that hang on the pages like paintings—more intimate, somehow, than double-page spreads—the island's eight trees and their leaves, which seem lively and animate and entirely worthy of friendship; the innocence of the bear; and Stein's willingness to let the story assume its own haiku-like shape. His autumnal pictures seem to glow, while the bear himself has the irresistible appeal of a well-loved toy. All ages. (Aug.)