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Thomas Ashley
Author, Service Provider
Fall: A Leaf Story

Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Bud has many strange friends on his tree, Mr Bark, Caterpillar and Elmer, but he has a special place in his heart for Holly. When Fall arrives and Holly finds herself swept from their tree, does Bud have the courage to Fall with her?
Ashley's debut picture book warmly observes the timeless notions of love, compassion, and sacrifice through Bud, a floret who is not yet a leaf. Bud blossoms on a solitary branch, far away from other branches, and comes to dote on Holly, an early bloomer on another bough. Ashley and illustrator Laura Ashley depict growth and change to young readers by depicting Bud and his other friends blooming into lush, green leaves as the weather turns. Readers are also meet Bud's friends: the grumpy Mr. Bark (and the army of ants who bite him), and Elmer, a leaf just like Bud who does not mind the nibbling of Chewey, the caterpillar. As the days get colder, Holly transitions to a "beautiful golden color” and eventually gets swept away by the wind and lands on the ground. Bud endeavors to drift down next to her. Will Bud make the fall and reach Holly?

Populating the tale with amusing characters, Ashley imbues Bud's world with the poignancy of inevitable change. He depicts a leaf's lifecycle without sermonizing to or infantilizing his readers. Striking, distinctive words like "squinty" and "grumpy" pepper the narrative, an opportunity for playful cadences from anyone reading the book aloud. However, Bud's relative isolation, which seems essential to the premise, goes undramatized, making the story’s stakes unclear. Some verbosity creeps into the prose near the ending, reducing the story’s sense of immediacy, and Bud overshadows the charming secondary cast.

Lauren Ashley’s winsome and captivating illustrations amplify the innocence and quirkiness of Bud's surroundings and enliven the story. Not only delightful, they seamlessly blend text with paintings in the page designs, greatly serving the pacing. Still, the tale eventually blossoms into a sweet triumph of love and friendship in the face of challenge and change, linking the cycles of nature to the sacrifices we make for our loved ones.

Takeaway: This charming picture book will delight and invite lively questions from young readers with its take on love, sacrifice, and the lives of leaves.

Great for fans of: Edward Monkton’s A Lovely Love Story, Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Snail and the Whale.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-