cover image Lawrence in the Fall

Lawrence in the Fall

Matthew Farina, illus. by Doug Salati. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-148478058-9

“When Lawrence saw the chalkboard, he froze,” writes debut picture book author Farina, a terrific opening line that ushers readers into a subtly powerful story of agency and independence. The board’s message hardly seems ominous at first: “Bring in something you collect to show the class!” Unlike his classmates, however—the pig amasses playing cards; the duck, silk ribbons—Lawrence doesn’t collect anything. Papa’s solution is a foray into the forest (“There is no better place to find what you need than the woods,” he says). But the trek quickly goes south: the rugged landscape overwhelms the little fox, the weather turns, and suddenly, he’s all alone in the rain, no Papa in sight. Then Lawrence notices that his shouting voice shakes loose brilliant autumn leaves, and when a relieved Papa finds him in a clearing, Lawrence is well on his way to becoming a connoisseur of fall foliage. Salati (In a Small Kingdom) builds the visual arc and emotional landscape of the story with soft pencil lines, muted browns and blues, and sensitive characterizations, lingering just enough on anxious moments that Lawrence’s newfound confidence feels like a big reward. And the final image is a wonderful parting gift: Lawrence leads his peers on a leaf-finding expedition of their own. Ages 3–5. [em](Apr.) [/em]