This is going to be a two-book review. They have nothing in common other than they both deal with autumn and they are experiencing books. That means, you do not just read this book, you feel the book. Maybe that is just me. I fall into a book and walk along with the characters. Maybe I am the only one who tastes a story when I am reading, or that all my senses come into play. No, I do not eat a book (though we are told to devour a good one) I just feel the story on some other level.
I am not ashamed to admit that this is how I read a book. That a book can embrace me. And John Sandford’s Oak Leaf and Matthew Farina’s Lawrence in the Fall are books that embraced.
Both Oak Leaf and Lawrence in the Fall are books where you read it once and say, “Okay. That’s nice.” But then you know you must give it a second read. Then a third. The first time is to read the text. Your second time is to read the illustrious. Finally, the third time is to read both the text and illustrations together.
Lawrence has a nice, cozy tone to the story (even during the storm, you know it will be “okay” even though you can feel the intense nature surrounding Lawrence) and there is a fun and sweet ending. It is slightly fantastical but at the same time, realistic. And it has both a modern and classical feel all wrapped into one. Doug Salati created illustrations that tell the story as easily as Farina’s text. They have an emotional appeal to them.
When you read Oak Leaf, you are experiencing a poetic look at one leaf and its fantastical journey to a special home. Perhaps it is unrealistic (a forest leaf finds a home in the city), but it is the essences of autumn. You smell and see the season. Sandford’s illustrations also are deep. They are slightly out of focus, but nothing is unknowable. They are calming and melting and solid all at once.
In many ways, both these books are not for the picture book crowd. They are for the older child in a read-aloud situation and for the adult. Both create an experience that each reader feels differently. Some will find them as powerful as I did; while others will enjoy on a softer level.