New Book Backstory: Full of Fall

Full of Fall, my new photo-illustrated picture book, will be released by the superb team at Beach Lane/S&S  August 29 2017. Happy to say it has received three starred reviews (Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal). Many devoted readers had questions about species and details in Raindrops Roll and Best in Snow. (Readers, thanks for embracing Best in Snow, which received four starred reviews and lots of coverage nationwide!) Below I’ve shared more details, in an informal way, for those of you digging into Full of Fall. I’m busy writing, traveling, and photographing for the release of four books in 2018 and 2019.

Full of Fall: Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachians, I came to a love of Autumn very early. I spent a lot of time wandering the woods of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. I loved studying fall leaves and leaf shapes.

My elementary school teacher, Barbara Murray Ottewell, loved America for its children and its trees. (She was from New Zealand and did not always embrace American culture.) She made sure we knew how lucky we were to live in a part of the world with such amazing plant diversity.
One fall, very recently, I was thinking about the trees and realized that Fall is when we really get to know them, because the overlapping green of the canopy suddenly changes. Each tree stands out from the crowd, with its particular leaf color. Suddenly we see the trees’ shapes. We meet the trees! That thought helped inspire the book.
The front cover leaf is a maple. Touch it! The special textures on this and many of my books are due to the brilliance of the art department, especially Elizabeth Blake-Linn, production manager, who finds a way to make these cover touches happen. This book, like all my books, is the result of a team effort of people pouring their talents into creating a hands-on, tactile experience for readers.
Inside front flap: oak leaves
One of my favorite inner title pages ever! This is the stump of a tree in my friend Barb’s yard. I looked down and saw its curves and patterns one fall, with all the leaves on it. The brilliance of the design is thanks to Lauren Rille. The leaves that fell on it were birch.
The slant of light through dried grasses and seed heads in the prairie always gives me that feeling of Fall. I photographed this on a joyous day at Potato Creek State Park as I walked into the forest to photograph for this book. It is part of a legacy of recently retired naturalist Tim Cordell, who helped plant so many prairies there.  The grasses are Indiana grasses and the seed heads are mostly gray coneflower.
Squirrels and other creatures change their behavior as they sense the season progressing. They don’t just gather acorns. Squirrels such as this red squirrel in our yard, change the linens in their nests, refreshing them with leaves and grasses in Fall. They make their nests cosy and warm for winter. They also change the “leaf linens” when they are raising their babies. (Babies can be a mess.) We have seen young red squirrels emerge from the nests  for the first time even as late as October.
The tree is an oak right outside my writing window.
Gingko leaf,
Hickory. Part of a compound leaf.
Oak leaf
Meet the trees.
These are mostly different types of maples. At Potato Creek State Park in Indiana.
These yellow leaves are maples in Michigan.
The gold ones are beech leaves, in southeast Virginia.
The orange leaves are maples.
The red are oak.
This maple tree is in Michigan, at Warren Dunes.
All the colors in the water, as ripples, are actually made by the reflection of fall trees in Indiana. I did nothing to alter those colors or accentuate them. If you’re out for a Fall walk, look in puddles and lakes and streams. The Fall reflections are amazing—but you have to walk around and check a few times because it depends a lot where you are standing. You may not see it at all from other angles.
The berries are high bush cranberries, a nonnative, but useful wildlife food for wildlife late in winter.
The squirrel in the bark photo is an American Red Squirrel.
The margins leaf is an oak.
The leaves ready to fall are maple. The leaves spinning are oak.
This tree is a maple.
These yellow leaves are maple. The curling leaves on the opposite side are at the base of a tree in St. Patrick’s County Park. This appears to be a tupelo tree, an ornamental. Not sure.
The floating and sinking leaves are maple. The snagging ones are predominately oak with a few maple mixed in.
I photographed this forest scene while in Connecticut at Talcott Mountain State Park.  The leaves were mostly maples.
Maple leaves fading.
The browning leaf is an oak. Can you see the butterfly on it? I took this photo in the Midwest. The butterfly is called a comma. It is a great example of camouflage because it looks like a leaf.
It is a common butterfly but you can see why people do not always notice it!
The squarish leaf in “decompose” is a tulip. Pine needles are on the ground beneath it.
This ending of falls spread is a famous lookout view at Talcott Mountain State Park in Connecticut. You can see that Fall has progressed because some of the trees are already bare. The characteristic bright sugar maple trees have almost all dropped leaves yet the forests still have color remaining, provided by hickories and others.
A flock of geese flew past this huge maple in Indiana. By the way, this same tree is in the group that made reflections in the water earlier in the book.  That feeling, of Fall ending, is in the air when I see the geese begin to migrate!
This tree is a marvel in my neighborhood. It always turns color weeks later than all the other trees. (Perhaps it is a European species of Maple; there are many kinds of maple.)  It turns so late that its colors are often caught in the snow, creating an unusual beauty.  (By the way, it makes a sneak peek appearance in Best in Snow, as background for snowflakes and also for red-winged blackbirds startled by an early snow.)
The plant in the background, still green, is a bushy kind of honeysuckle. Its success is partly due to how it greens up so quickly in Spring, and stays green so late in Fall. (It’s also helped along because the birds eat its berries and then the plant sprouts from the seeds in their droppings. But that’s another book, entirely!)
Back Cover
The squirrel on the back cover is a gray squirrel in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I spent many a day photographing Fall and enjoying the trees on nearby James Island, one of my favorite places in the world.

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