At the outdoor book launch for my newest picture book, THE BIG LEAF LEAP, the sun was
shining and the breeze was blowing with just a little hint of the coolness of fall. It was perfect,
because that fall weather plays a key role in the story—a story about a group of neighborhood
kids building a leaf pile together. I got the crowd talking about their favorite seasons, and what
they love about that time of year. Winter-lovers waxed poetic about the quiet stillness of snow
and the rowdy fun of sledding. Fans of spring reminded us of blooming flowers and baby birds,
while the summer set cheered for swimming and ice cream and school-free fun. But I’m a fall
fanatic, since the October day I was born. I love this crisp weather, the slanting light, and the
brilliant turning of the leaves.
Obviously, THE BIG LEAF LEAP is a fall book. It came out September 6 th , and we’ll promote it
throughout the season. As I plan bookstore events, school visits, and social media giveaways,
the “fall-ness” of this book is always front and center. When fall passes, we’ll probably put it
away for a while, until the seasons turn around again toward leaf jumping. Then, we’ll feel
excited to get it back out. I am realizing through all this autumn-inspired promo that all of my
books are seasonal. Not that you can’t read them at other times of year, but each has a special
relationship to a season. This is, I guess, how I write. I had never thought of it that way before,
but it’s true. Maybe it’s because this is just how I live, and my own relationship to the cycle of
seasons comes through in everything I make.
TEN BEAUTIFUL THINGS is a spring book. It’s about a girl driving to Iowa to move in with her
grandma. It’s a sad book, and ultimately a hopeful book. It’s about a hard transition, about
letting go… and about being open to the potential beauty of something new. Which is what
spring teaches us every year. We have to shake off the ache of winter and we have to look,
hard, for the tiny sprouts of new growth in all the muck. They are there. They are always there.
Even when we think starting over is impossible, the world shows us how.
RHODA’S ROCK HUNT is a summer book. It’s about hiking and camping and travel, and exploring
the natural world in a hands-on, knee-deep kind of way. It’s about loving a place enough to
want to carry it home with us. LOON BABY is also a summery book, about the push-and-pull of
growing independence. SILHOUETTE OF A SPARROW, my YA title, takes place over a summer
and makes use of both the natural lushness of the season and also the fact that for many young
people, summer exists inherently outside of routines. Anything is possible in the summer. We
can be anyone. We adventure. We explore. We let the world change us into whatever it is we
I have a winter book coming out next, in 2024. It’s called JUST US and it’s about holiday
traditions upended by a blizzard. Nature—winter, in all its blustery glory—interferes with
human-built plans, and new traditions must be forged. I can’t say more, yet. But I’m excited to
have a winter book coming, and a holiday book, and a book that challenges our ideas of what
“has to happen” for a holiday to be a holiday. Winter can make us do that—go deep, accept a
loss of control, hole up, cozy down, and rebuild ourselves from the inside, discovering what is
most important as we go.
Seasonality is an aspect of setting that doesn’t seem to get discussed very often. Not the
WHERE of the setting, but the WHEN. And not the historical WHEN: 1926 or 2022. No,
seasonality is the specificity of the now in the yearly cycle, which passes quickly but comes back
again and again. It is a unique moment shaped by weather, and light, and what’s happening
with the plants and the animals around us, and the whole complicated and beautiful ecosystem
of our world. It is the acknowledgement that we are part of all that, not separate. That our daily
lives, our human dramas, are affected by the patterns of nature. A season is a unique moment
which is also a recurring moment, though that predictability is affected now by climate change.
And our experience of a season is, of course, constantly shifting. A six-year-old’s perception of
fall is different from mine, and I am fascinated by trying to describe that—what it feels like to
be a child in the when of fall—and to celebrate it.
Seasons are not universal, and I don’t mean to imply that they are. City-fall is different from
rural-fall, in some ways, and the forest is different from the prairie. In some ecosystems there
are very few deciduous trees, and fall is the transition from the dry season to the wet season. I
hope somebody is writing those fall books too. Here, we gasp at bright leaves and bite into tart
apples and stir spices into warm beverages. For my kids, fall is about assembling Halloween
costumes, enjoying the big moon as the evenings get darker, making pumpkin bread, and
jumping in leaves. They experience fall with all of their senses. They truly do “leap in” with their
whole bodies, and roll around in it. It’s downright inspiring.
And even if fall isn’t your favorite season, embracing the things you love about this moment in
time makes it easier to let go of summer, and easier not to look ahead to winter just yet.
Awareness of seasonality is about living in the moment, and appreciating it in whatever ways
we can. Books for kids can model that mentality for them. Writing those books, choosing those
books, keeping rotating pile of them available to the young people in our lives, shows them that
they are part of a bigger cycle, and there are great things about NOW. It doesn’t hurt, as
grownups, to be reminded of that too.
Molly Beth Griffin (MFAC ’09) is the author of several picture books, a YA novel, and a series of
beginning readers. She hosts a monthly Picture Book Salon, critiques manuscripts, and mentors
emerging writers through the Loft’s Mirrors & Windows Fellowship. She lives in South
Minneapolis with her partner and their two kids, where she enjoys hiking, taking photos of
birds, eating pastries, and waiting for the mail.