The second Cynthia Rylant book I choose was In November. A basic, brief summary of the book would be that In November covers the events that take place in nature, animals, and with humans during the fall. However this is not a basic book! Jill Kastner illustrations are what make you pick up this book. You see the rich orange, reds, various greens and browns of fall leaves with a tiny field mouse in the corner. You can already feel the fall leaves crunching under your feet. Even though the illustration are what attract you to the book, it's Cynthia Rylant's words and phrases that pull you into the story. She starts with beautiful words on how the earth prepares itself for the winter "In November the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much can hide beneath its blankets." Even though the illustrations are of winter, they are are rich with textures and brush stokes of color. You look up at the bare branches of trees silhouetted against a brilliant blue sky. Then Cynthia Rylant begins to talk about the changes the animals go through during the fall. The birds call to each other, some head for warmer climates, and others hunt for special berry treats. You hear about how other animals are changing "In November, animals sleep more. The air is chilly and they shiver. Cats pile up in the corners of barns. Mice pile up under logs. Bees pile up in deep, earthy holes. And dog lie before the fire". Their pace of life is slowing because the colder weather. Finally the story speaks about people in the fall. Cynthia Rylant reminds us of the smells of November, "It is the orange smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning, can pull everyone from bed in a fog." A dream like picture helps you remember the smell of coffee and breakfast on those special holiday mornings. The story then moves on to remind us of a special day in November when our families gather together to celebrate each other and food. Finally a beautiful winter night scene matches wonderfully with Cynthia Rylant's words " In November, at winter's gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometime friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss their heads, till spring."
I felt that this book had a magical quality that makes it a timeless piece of work. The words and the illustrations work beautifully together allowing you see November in a new light. Instead of being a time that things go dormant or die and the days become shorter and colder, you now see it as a lovely time of transition. This would be a wonderful book to use with younger elementary students to explore the concept of fall. Since it approaches the topic of Thanksgiving more as a family gathering than a holiday it could be used in a classroom with children who don't celebrate holidays. Finally In November would be a wonderful mentor text for a writing lesson on words choice and expression. Phrases such as "the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still." and "The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes." are perfect choices to help child see how words can paint a mental image. I enjoyed the beauty of the words and the pictures in this book. I look forward to sharing with my students.