Leaf Man in the classroom

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

leaf manWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Leaf Man (My review)
  • Art supplies, leaves and “nature” objects

Age Level

The creativity of this book makes it suitable for an audience of any age.

Reading Leaf Man

Ideally, you would read Leaf Man outside, surrounded by mounds of crunchy autumnal leaves. My timing however is terrible and as we’re currently in spring you’ll have to settle for sunshine and blossom instead.

Lois Ehlert includes information in the book about how she makes her leaf art. Before reading, with an older class you could discuss this process.

IMG_20200602_162135Art Possibilities

There are endless activities and they could quite easily fill a day.

Creating a tree

Last year I started a new entrant class in autumn and we spent a lot of time that year talking about seasons. In our classroom we created a tree covered in autumn leaves. Each child had an ice cream container and we merrily wandered the school collecting interesting leaves. Our goal was to hunt for leaves that showed autumn colours. Back in the classroom the class drew and coloured their leaves using an autumn-coloured selection of crayons. They dyed them green and cut them out. This tree was a lovely addition to our classroom and in spring we added flower blossoms. 

IMG_20200529_120845 (1)

Nature art

fire swordIf autumn leaves are light on the ground, you can head in a slightly different direction. Let the kids collect any interesting things they find outside (you’d be amazed how many pieces of rubbish get collected as “treasure”). This can then be turned into a picture using a hot glue gun, with extra detail added using a black pen. Or like Jack they can just write the word, “detail!”

Lois’ leaf art

Lois takes photos of leaves and then uses these to make her art. With an older class this would be heaps of fun. You could create a whole class-full of leaf images and then digitally use these to make your own pictures, maybe your own picture book. The main app I’ve used for image manipulation is Pics Art where you can cut around images. You could then use something as simple as Google Slides to move the leaves around to create a picture. I have limited experience of app-use with seniors, so feel free to share your favourite app or programme that would work in the comments.

Check out Leaf Man at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Leaf Man from Fishpond.


Hooray for Hoppy! by Tim Hopgood (2014)

[Published by MacMillan Children’s Books]

hoorayHoppy the enthusiastic rabbit arrived in my life at the perfect time. There is no other way to describe Auckland’s weather today than pants. It’s cold, grey, windy and rainy, all the bad things weather can be. We’re about halfway through winter, and today’s picture book reminded me that it’s not forever.

Hoppy wakes one morning and wonders if today is the day. It’s too cold and snowy, so he hops back into bed. A couple of failed attempts later and Hoppy wakes to a certain smell in the air. There is blossom on the trees, singing birds and lambs in the meadow. Spring has most definitely sprung. This lovely story is a celebration of the IMG_1897senses with the audience asked on the final pages What does Hoppy hear? What does Hoppy smell? What does Hoppy see? What does Hoppy taste? What does Hoppy feel?

The perfect antidote to a horrible winter’s day.

[No longer available at Auckland Libraries]

Or buy Hooray for Hoppy! from Fishpond (picture book version).


The lion and the bird by Marianne Dubuc (2014)

[Published by Enchanted Lion Books]


I’m feeling slightly frazzled after handing two monster assignments in today, and The lion and the bird is the perfect antitode. My analogy-creation abilities are failing me after a late night of typing many thousands of words… it’s like hugging someone who is wearing great knitwear. So snuggly.

Lion is having a merry time working in his garden when he becomes aware of a sound. Lying on the grass is an injured bird. As the rest of Bird’s friends migrate, Lion bandages and embraces Bird both literally and figuratively. (Maybe my analogy should be, it’s like tucking yourself into a lion’s mane on a cold autumn day). Lion and Bird enjoy each other’s company through autumn and winter. But when Bird’s friends return, he joins them on their migration south. Lion staring at the sky alone on a white, white page is one of the most poignant illustrations I have seen. As autumn rolls around again… I can’t give the whole plot away now can I? IMG_1819

Several pages of this story are text-free, but with illustrations this magnificent there is no need for words. There is so much to explore and say about this picture book, it would be fantastic for a classroom studying the importance and impact of illustrations. And look at that, it’s worked, I’m feeling significantly less frazzled!

Check out The lion and the bird at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The lion and the bird from Fishpond.

[Recommended by Kerryn – thanks Kerryn!]


The wild girl by Chris Wormell (2005)

[Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers]


It’s a snoozy sunny afternoon and I’ve happily spent the last 20 minutes on a rambling daydream inspired by The Wild Girl.

A little girl lives alone in the wilderness with her small brown dog. Her solitary lifestyle is rather appealing, full of trout-fishing, outdoor sleeping, berry and root gathering (the insect eating I’m less excited about). Their existence is totally isolated, not even the smoke of another fire enters their world.

One winter day, the little girl discovers bear tracks around her cave and she is forced to defend her home. It turns out the IMG_1767company of bears is not such a bad thing after all.

This is a gentle and original story that I loved very much.

Check out The wild girl at Auckland Libraries.

[Apologies team, this is the first book I’ve reviewed that is out-of-print. I’m breaking all my rules by including it, but I figure you’ll forgive me. Fingers crossed your local library has this wee beauty.]


Aunt Ellie’s beach house by Raewyn Caisley; illustrated by Lisa Allen (2014)

[Published by Duck Creek Press]

ellieBeach holidays were an essential part of my summer holidays as a child, and this beautiful New Zealand picture book sent me on a merrily nostalgic journey.

Leyla visits her aunt’s beach house every summer. She loves everything about her time there, from being able to run around like a wild thing, to falling asleep to the hiss and crash of the waves.

But one night she hears her aunt say something terrible, “I’m going to sell the place,” Auntie Ellie said. “The city’s moving too close. I need to find somewhere else.”

It feels like the worst thing in the world to Leyla. She tries really hard to follow her mother’s advice and notIMG_1534 make her final memories sad ones, but on the last night she just wants to leave. The moon draws them down to the beach where the beauty of the place heals the hurt. “Suddenly Leyla’s heart felt as light and bubbly as foam.”

The final page shows us that change can be okay. The illustrations, particularly the night-scenes are magical, and the language bursts with all sorts of lovely features, like “sucking sand” and “scrunchy, crunchy shells.”

The exploration of loss and change is gentle and reassuring. A wonderful book to share in the classroom.

[No longer available at Auckland Libraries of Fishpond! You’ll have to use some tracking down skills for this one.]


Finding spring by Carin Berger (2015)

[Published by Greenwillow Books]

findingI would love to hang out with Carin Berger and watch her work. Her illustrations are cut-paper collages created out of old books, receipts, letters, ticket stubs and they make me ridiculously happy.

Maurice the bear is pre-hibernation, but it’s all far too exciting for him to sleep, he just wants to see his first ever spring. Through the forest he wanders on a spring-hunt. “Suddenly, Maurice felt an icy sting on his nose. “Is that spring?” he asked.”

At the top of Great Hill, Maurice is spellbound by a sky full of snowflakes. He collects a giant snowball, excited to be taking aIMG_1526 bit of spring home that he can share when everyone wakes up. When he finally emerges from hibernation, the bundle of spring has vanished. Together with his forest friends he sets out to discover the real spring in all its glory.

She’s a cockle-warmer all right.

Check out Finding spring at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Finding spring from Fishpond.