3 out of 4 stars
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When I was young, my mother gave me a book of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. I was so fascinated with the origin tales that it doesn't take much to bring them back to mind. And so it was that all of those great yarns came rushing back to my memory when I read Anne E. Reardon's book, The Story of Autumn, and witnessed the creation of new words in a similar fashion.
In this children's story, the focus is on a tree that is unlike any other in the forest. The highfalutin evergreen trees refuse to be friends with her, or even acknowledge her presence, because she's so different from them. Despite her initial sadness, Autumn manages to hold her leaves up, keeping a mostly sunny disposition and making the forest a better home for all.
In our current climate of bullying, I thought this was a wonderful story about staying positive even when not accepted by one's peers. Even though the evergreens wouldn't talk to Autumn, a friendly squirrel named Skippy befriended her and even helped her come up with a name. The situation wasn't ideal, and Autumn continued to wish she had other trees to talk to, but she made the most of what she had. Eventually, Autumn had a lot of animal friends, and the friends would occasionally stand up for her against the evergreens, going so far as to "white out on" - use your imaginations - the unyielding evergreens. Being the gracious tree that she was, she'd admonish her aviary friends and ask them not continue engaging in such behavior.
I loved the way that Ms. Reardon brought life to everyone in the forest. She often wrote about Autumn and the evergreens bending over, using their limbs as arms, and otherwise moving in human ways. She even wrote about how Autumn would sometimes be weighed down by the heavy sap within her. Also, as noted above, there were some words that were given interesting genesis stories, and I couldn't help but chuckle at the animals and Autumn's ingenuity.
The thing I found most creative about The Story of Autumn was Anne's call for young readers to illustrate the book themselves. There were blank pages every few pages with prompts on what to draw or paste into the spaces. For instance, one prompt read, "Draw or paste a picture of your forest floor with flowers and butterflies." I loved how these instructions were designed to bring out the creativity in young minds. One of the readers could very well be a future illustrator of children's books with the seed having been planted from reading this story. I should add that there was one hiccup in that one of the prompts fell right in the middle of a sentence. I tried the file on two different readers, and it appeared that way on both, so it seemed to be a formatting issue.
Sadly, this book needs more work in the editing arena, as it is full of grammatical errors, mostly of the punctuation variety. There are also a few instances of singular words that should have been written in the plural form. Due to these typographical errors, I am forced to give this yarn 3 out of 4 stars. Since this is a tale for the younger set, I strongly urge the author to have this tome professionally edited so that it can meet the high standards for children's books.
Despite the myriad missteps in The Story of Autumn, I am happy to recommend this story to children on the higher end of the recommended age range (6-12) because the book is short, but the pages are full of text and contain complex words. Alternately, parents can read the book to younger children, perhaps turning it into a series of mini-stories, spread out over the course of a week. I also think it would be fun for children to come up with their own ideas on what they want to draw, perhaps in tandem with their parents' ideas, using drawing paper as their canvas. This book would be great for readers of any age who are being bullied as well, as I'm sure there's something to be learned from Autumn's consistent refusal to lower herself to the evergreens' levels, thereby keeping a bad situation from turning into an even worse one.
The Story Of Autumn
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