I picked up Autumn Harvest at the thrift store a while back with eagerness. I immediately recognized the illustration style that made White Snow, Bright Snow a Caldecott Award Winner in the late 1940s. The same author, Alvin Tresselt, wrote Autumn Harvest and the same artist, Roger Duvoisin, illustrated it. This team also produced a quirky, quiet book called Hide and Seek Fog (itself a Caldecott Honor Book) and their work complements each other beautifully. One that I didn’t know about is called The Beaver Pond and while out of print, looks to be readily and economically available. Furthermore, Roger Duvoisin is the illustrator for other fantastic and popular books like Petunia and The Happy Lion too; his accomplishments and credibility can’t be denied.
Here’s my beef. Why—if you have such a lauded duo of picture book makers— would publishers let their other titles go out of print?! Forget for a moment, the worthiness of other titles, isn’t there something to be said for celebrity power in the children’s literature world? But let it be known that Autumn Harvest is worthy! The story is simple, and slow. It’s a cycle of nature and lifestyle beginning with the earliest harvest season:
After the threshing, timid filed mice scurried through the stubble to find what the machines had left. And chattering birds gathered in the hedgerows to feast on the fallen grain. Each night at sundown the katydids sang louder. Katydid…katydidn’t…katydid…katydidn’t. Till the first frost tipped the maples with scarlet, and turned the elms to gold.
… and continuing on through the season until the farmer’s family gathers around the table for Thanksgiving. All the while accompanied by Duvoisin’s excellent, vintage drawings. I’m just not sure where the book goes wrong enough to get left in the publishing dust pile? Is it too dated or nostalgic? Is it because the farmer is not PC and he smokes a pipe? What?! Why suffocate our children with other filth in print and avoid the riches of yesteryear? I suppose it’s the vicious cycle with all consumerism: if people buy it, they produce it. If they produce it, people buy it, if for nothing else than for lack of better options. So who really is to blame them? Us? Them?
Whatever the case may be, don’t get all glittery eyed at the Barnes and Noble shelf of books when there are treasures waiting to be purchased second hand all over the place. Do some research. Don’t settle for pig slop. Buy books with wrinkles.