Sweep

On a windy fall night, a young boy named Ed looks over his town. He has a broom in hand and is standing atop a towering mountain of leaves. The day began with him sweeping leaves, but below his mountain are all the other things he seemed to have collected along the way, including dogs, cats, bicycles, cars, buses, people, and buildings.   

The story of Sweep starts when a single leaf in the wind hits Ed’s face, causing him to trip over a broom. This puts Ed in a bad mood, but unlike all the bad moods he’s had before, this one grows and grows until he is ragefully sweeping every leaf around him into one large pile. His bad mood convinces him to go on, not accounting for all the animals, vehicles, or people in his way. Ed knows he is taking things too far. He even knows that if he looked up from the ground, he would see all the beautiful balloons, birds, and kites above it. But his bad mood is not satisfied until he has swept up his whole town. 

By the end of the day, there are no flowers left and the birds have stopped singing. Ed is tired, hungry, and questioning if he can really stop sweeping after going through all this trouble. As he ponders this, his bad mood begins to lift and a strong gust of wind picks up every person and thing in his pile. Not only does the wind put everything back to normal, but Ed believes the town looks even better than it did before.  

The wind gently lands a kite in front of Ed, who, finally looking up from the ground, flies it high in the air. He notices the beauty of all the other kites around him. The next time Ed finds himself in a bad mood, he makes sure to think twice and ask himself if there is a way to process it in a more constructive way. 

Sweep is a smart and funny story that teaches a valuable lesson about learning to process your feelings. The book has one to five sentences per page, making it a fast read. Readers of all ages will also enjoy the book’s art style, which makes use of bleaker autumn shades such as beige, gray, brown, and crimson during Ed’s rampage through his town and uses a wide spectrum of bright, vivid colors when his spirit lifts. The items and characters that amass in Ed’s constantly growing pile guarantee a laugh on every page, and the pile’s mountainous final form is full of clever gags and details for eagle-eyed readers to spot upon repeated readings. 

Younger readers will relate to Ed’s impulse to lash out when he’s in a bad mood. Plus, his journey will help them to understand the harmful nature of being negative. By reading Sweep, readers will also learn how to evaluate and express their feelings in a way that is beneficial to themselves and others. Readers who enjoy Sweep should also read Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, a sweet book that shows how one man’s grumpy mood changes when he meets an unexpected friend.  

Sexual Content 

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Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

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Supernatural 

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Leif and the Fall

Leif is a small green leaf who lives in a tall oak tree. Being a leaf means being attached to a tree, but Leif doesn’t mind. He loves the view from his branch and getting to spend time with his best friend, Laurel. As the breeze gets harsher and the days get shorter, Leif realizes that it’s nearly fall. Leif has never seen fall, but its arrival worries him, as he knows that fall is the time when all leaves fall from their trees. Leif doesn’t want to be like all leaves. With the help of Laurel, he hatches a plan to catch himself. 

Leif and the Fall is a fun and pleasant read for the young reader who doesn’t let others tell them who they are and what they are capable of. It is also a testament to the power of thinking outside the box and surrounding yourself with the right people. While the other leaves mock and discourage Leif’s plan, Leif persists in his goal and chooses to surround himself with supportive friends like Laurel. While none of Leif’s plans work in the way he intended, the story tells a thoughtful message that all your hard work and skills will inevitably help you in some way, as all of Leif’s discarded contraptions form a pile big enough to soften his and Laurel’s fall. 

The book’s short and sweet story is well-matched with simple, charming illustrations.  The leaves are softly colored in shades of green, yellow, brown, and gray. Faces are drawn to personify them, while their stems are drawn as their arms and legs. The pages have blank backgrounds that are either white or colored with muted autumn shades. Readers can enjoy a second read-through to spot all the insects hiding on the tree’s branches. Each page has one to seven short sentences and easy vocabulary that makes it easy to understand for beginning readers.  

Leif and the Fall is an excellent book for young nature lovers and fans of autumn. Apart from being an enjoyable story, it is sure to help younger readers as they learn the importance of creativity, self-expression, and positive friendships. Readers ready to snuggle up with another fall-themed picture book with a positive message should add Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller to their must-read list. 

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Sophie’s Squash

One fall day, Sophie makes a surprising friend during her family’s sunny trip to the local farmers’ market. The friend just happens to be a squash. Sophie calls her Bernice. At first, Sophie’s parents let Sophie care for and love Bernice—taking her to storytime at the library, introducing her to the other squash at the market, practicing somersaults in the garden, and tucking baby Bernice into a crib at night with a bottle. “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables,” Sophie’s parents humorously justify. However, as Bernice begins to get older and rot, Sophie’s parents try to convince Sophie to cook Bernice, or send her to a food donation site. Even the other children during library storytime look down on Bernice as she ages. However, Sophie is not ready to ever give up her perfect friend—so when Bernice begins to soften and can no longer do somersaults, Sophie makes the difficult decision to put her in a bed of soft soil and wait for Bernice to grow again.

Sophie’s Squash is a wonderfully gentle tale that not only teaches children how to care for the things that they love, but also shows readers how letting go can sometimes lead to new possibilities. Miller thoughtfully weaves her story of Sophie and Bernice alongside whimsical watercolor illustrations in which illustrator Anne Wilsdorf fully showcases Sophie’s somersaults, Bernice’s baby carriage rides, and multiple family trips to the farmers’ market. Even though Sophie’s Squash is longer than most picture books, two or three illustrations sit on each page and break up the text so that there is no more than five to ten lines between each image. The watercolor illustrations also work to bring the entire narrative to life, so viewers still gain a complete grasp of the story by looking only at the pictures. This, coupled with the digestible nature of Miller’s prose, makes Sophie’s Squash perfect for new and learning readers.

Throughout all the quirky shenanigans of Sophie’s Squash, Sophie’s character shines with a heroic agency and independence. Sophie’s care towards Bernice turns this silly story about a girl and a squash into a truly heartwarming story about friendship, care, and even environmentalism. By exemplifying the new path Sophie must take in order to regrow her friend Bernice, Sophie’s Squash creates a powerful metaphor demonstrating the wondrous things that can come from putting something else’s needs— particularly the needs of nature— before your own.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

  • One of the children at the library points and stares at Bernice, saying to Sophie, “What’s that spotty thing?” In the narrative, this question takes on a teasing tone that may be hard for some children to read.

Supernatural

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by Hannah Olsson

Mr. Murry and Thumbkin

Once there were two very different, but lovable mice. Mr. Murry worries about every little thing all day long. He worries especially about his new neighbor, Thumbkin, who moved into the pumpkin next door. Thumbkin is the most laid-back mouse around and has not a care in the world.

While manic Mr. Murry works and frets to get all of his fall chores done before winter arrives, lethargic Thumbkin lazes around in his yard, soaking up the sun and eating fat pumpkin seeds. Will Mr. Murry, who worries too much, and Thumbkin, who worries too little, even be able to get along and meet somewhere in the middle?

Mr. Murry’s world comes alive in comical, full-page illustrations that have realistic details such as Mr. Murry using a cat food can as a wood stove, and a teapot as a home. The two mice’s facial expressions reveal their varying emotions. Many of the illustrations show Mr. Murry and Thumbkin side-by-side, which highlights the differences between the two. While Mr. Murry is doing laundry, Thumbkin is laying around gnawing on a stalk of hay and singing.

Mr. Murry and Thumbkin teaches the importance of hard work and preparing for autumn. Because Thumbkin spent all summer laying around, his pumpkin home rots. But not even this can discourage Thumbkin, instead, he decides to “lie back and take in the view.” In the end, Mr. Murry saves the freezing Thumbkin and gives him a home. The conclusion shows the two mice happily living together, and the two “met somewhere right in the middle.”

Younger readers will fall in love with the two mice and enjoy looking at all of the details in each picture. Each page has 1-6 simple sentences that use rhyming and onomatopoeia. Even though Mr. Murry and Thumbkin is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Mr. Murry and Thumbkin uses humor to contrast two mice as it teaches readers not to worry or laze around too much. Mr. Murry and Thumbkin is a wonderful story that younger readers will want to read again and again.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Saving Kate’s Flowers

Fall is here and Kate, who is a rabbit, is determined to save her flowers from the winter cold. Mom shows her how to scoop the flowers out of the ground, transplant them into pots, and give them water. Kate pots a couple of flowers . . . and then some more … and a few more. ate has filled the house with flowers, but Dad’s sneezes mean the flowers have to go! Kate realizes she needs to find a new place for her flowers to spend the winter, but where?

Saving Kate’s Flowers is a fun story that introduces readers to different types of flowers—black-eyed susans, impatients, geraniums, and goldenrod just to name a few. The story also explains the difference between perennials and annuals. Readers will relate to Kate, who doesn’t want any of the flowers to die. When the overzealous Kate pots too many plants, her mom helps her find a way to save them. With a little help, Kate’s flowers find a new home with her neighbors.

Kate’s world comes to life in beautiful full-colored illustrations that are packed full of details. Readers will enjoy finding the snail that appears on almost every page. Butterflies, worms, and insects are also in many of the pictures. The story includes a 4-page “For Creative Minds” section in the back of the book and a 27-page cross-curricular “Teaching Activity Guide” online. Each page has 1 to 9 sentences which early readers will need help reading. Even though young readers may need help with the vocabulary, the story explains transplanting plants in a way that young readers will easily understand.

Children will love the adorable animals in Saving Kate’s Flowers, from a turtle listing to an ipod to a pug wearing pearls. Kate’s enthusiasm for plants is contagious and her kind actions show the importance of being a good neighbor. Whether you’re looking for a book that teaches about plants or just a fun family read-aloud, Saving Kate’s Flower is sure to delight. Readers who want to learn more about the joy of gardening should also read Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Wonderfall

This informative picture book follows a single tree through the fall season, from the end of summer to winter’s first snowfall. Each page has blended words created to celebrate the wonder of fall. This book lets the reader see a neighborhood from the tree’s point of view.

Each page has fall-colored pictures that look like they are made out of construction paper. Readers will follow the tree and see the changing of leaves, the animals, and the events of the season. Each page starts with a blended word, such as plentifall, and then has a short poem. Each short poem uses sound words such as tat, boom, and boo to show excitement.

Even though Wonderfall Moms is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. The poetry, onomatopoeias, and descriptions make the story fun to read aloud. Since there is little text on each page, the story is a quick read, making it an excellent bedtime story.

Younger readers will enjoy the cute pictures and the simple poems. The ending of the book has information about trees and animals that appear in the book. Wonderfall uses short, simple poems that will get people in the mood for the joys of fall—Halloween, throwing leaves, and watching animals.

 Sexual Content

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Violence

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Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Pumpkin Heads

Every autumn all through high school, Josiah and Deja have worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say goodbye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September first.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years…

What if their last shift was an adventure?

For three years, Josiah has had a crush on Marcy, a girl he only sees when they work at the pumpkin patch. On the last night of work, Deja talks Josiah into skipping their shift so Josiah can find Marcy and finally talk to her. Reluctantly, Josiah goes along with Deja’s plan. Readers will fall in love with the two characters as they explore the pumpkin patch looking for Marcy. Josiah is shy, sweet, and afraid of rejection, while Deja is confident, outgoing, and completely determined to have Josiah meet the girl of his dreams.

Pumpkin Heads brings all the joys of fall to life—the food, the corn maze, the pumpkins, and the friends. Throughout it all, Deja and Josiah discuss the idea of fate versus free will. The two friends reminisce about their years working at the pumpkin patch and worry about what the future will bring. As the two race against time trying to find Marcy, the story includes some wonderful patches of humor. For example, when Josiah worries about leaving the succotash booth, Deja says, “For God’s sake, Josie—true love trumps lima beans!”

Pumpkin Heads will encourage readers to be bold and live without regrets. Although the plot is a bit predictable, the main characters are truly unique. In the end, Josiah realizes that people cannot be judged by their looks. The only way to truly know someone is to talk to them. The graphic novel is illustrated in the orange and brown hues of fall, and each page has 1-8 sentences of text. The story is a quick read that will leave readers with a smile.

 Sexual Content

  • Deja runs into an ex-girlfriend and an ex-boyfriend.
  • Deja and Josiah see a couple kissing in the corn maze.
  • Deja asks Josiah, “Are you about to kiss me?” Josiah freaks out. After a short conversation, they kiss.

Violence

  • A goat runs around smashing pumpkins and trying to ram people.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Oh God” is used as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Josiah and Deja show up at the succotash booth, a worker says, “Thank the Lord!”
  • Deja sees a girl crying, so she gives the girl a snack. Deja asks, “Why doesn’t God want me to have snacks?”

Dragon’s Halloween

Dragon waits too long to go to the pumpkin patch. When he gets there, he finds six small pumpkins. When Alligator and Fox see Dragon carving his pumpkins, they laugh. Fox says, “Those pumpkins are too small to be scary.” Even though the pumpkins are small, Dragon is able to make a scary jack-o-lantern.

After carving pumpkins, Dragon has a hard time deciding what costume to wear to a costume party. He finally dresses as a mummy, but on the way to the party, rain ruins Dragon’s costume. His friends laugh at his silly costume. But then a pumpkin falls on Dragon’s head and all of his friends are so scared they jump into Hippo’s arms. When Dragon removes the pumpkin, everyone feels better. Everyone except the one animal that Hippo sat on.

In the final story, Dragon is frightened by strange sounds in the night. When Dragons yells, an angry squirrel tells him, “That’s no monster. That’s your stomach! Now go home and get something to eat before you wake up the whole forest!” So Dragon goes home and bakes a feast of pumpkin-flavored foods. And then he “ate and ate and ate.”

Readers won’t be able to get enough of Dragon, the loveable blue dragon. Dragon’s Halloween has three silly, short stories that will entertain readers. Each page has 1-4 easy-to-read sentences and large illustrations. Each Halloween story has a simple plot. The book is intended for children who are learning to read. With simple text, humor, and full-color illustration on every page, Dragon’s Halloween will help readers build confidence and fluency. As Dragon gets into the Halloween spirit, readers will laugh as he discovers both the fun and the scary parts of Halloween.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin

Marley’s family has spent the summer taking care of their pumpkin. They hope their pumpkin wins a blue ribbon at the county fair. But when Marely’s family rolls the pumpkin into the truck, Marley breaks his leash and jumps on the pumpkin. The pumpkin runs down the street. The pumpkin crashes into garbage cans, takes a ride on a scooter, and almost runs over the mailman. The pumpkin finally crashes and smashes into a tree.

Marley’s family is disappointed that the pumpkin can no longer be entered into the contest. But Mommy has an idea! “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you smashed pumpkins, make pie.” The family enters the pumpkin pie into a contest and wins first place. Cassie says, “It was a blue-ribbon pumpkin after all.”

Marley doesn’t mean to cause mischief, but his curiosity causes trouble. Throughout the story, Marley’s family uses creative solutions to solve their problems. When Marley smashes their pumpkin, the family comes up with another plan. While the conclusion is unrealistic, the happy ending implies that Marley has been forgiven and that his family still loves him.

Young readers will relate to Marley, who accidentally gets into trouble. The plot comes alive through large, brightly colored illustrations that appear on every page. Each page has 43 or fewer words. The story uses longer sentences and has some challenging words that readers may need help with. Even though Marley is featured in over 20 books, the books do not need to be read in order.

Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin is a fun fall story that teaches the importance of thinking creatively. If you’re ready for colorful leaves falling and the smell of pumpkin pie, Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin will help readers get into the mood to enjoy fall’s delights.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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