Finding Fall Picture Books: Good Reads for the Holidays & Every Day

Posted on October 11, 2023 at 6:00 am

Mother and daughter enjoying reading a book together relaxing in the autumn leaves at the park

By Melissa Rhoades

Autumn is a beautiful time. Deciduous trees make their colorful transformations. Cooler temperatures prevail. People revel in steaming beverages and cuddly sweaters.

Autumn is also the time when seasonal children’s books are especially popular for check out. Even with over 100 picture book titles that come up in our catalog for searches for autumn, fall titles start fluttering off the shelves in August.

Collections of holiday picture books for Halloween and Thanksgiving also scamper off the shelves with haste—even though each customer can only check out five holiday books at a time.

In other words, if you didn’t get on a hold list for fall picture books early, you may need to think creatively to find festive books that are available at the right time.

I offer some alternative titles from what you may find in a search for autumn books that are great to share with your family this time of year.

Search Tip: For easier catalog browsing, click the “Available Now” tab on catalog search-result pages to eliminate checked-out items, as shown in the image below.

Introducing the Seasons to Young Readers

Books specifically about autumn blow swiftly off the shelves this time of year. Instead, try a book that covers all four seasons. Here’s a small sample of our offerings.

Book cover for "The Gold Leaf"

The Gold Leaf, written by Kirsten Hall and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe, tells the story of forest animals enthralled by a single gold leaf growing on a tree. They fight over the leaf until it lies in shreds, and no one can keep it. They must now wait through all four seasons to see if a second gold leaf will grow. This story is a great lesson about gratitude and sharing too.

The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day, written by Katie Cotton and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, delights readers with a musical interactive element. Isabella and her dog Pickles experience weather so changeable, they’re exposed to all four seasons in one day. On the right-hand pages, readers can press buttons to play bars from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concerto through a built-in music box.

From Season to Season, by Ethan Long, features a large cast of characters enjoying aspects of each season in Happy County. Like Richard Scarry books, it provides explanations and educational labels on each page. The book is also packed with games and exercises for kids. Autumn games include finding which trees produce acorns and navigating a corn maze.

Learning about the Harvest

Like autumn books, harvest picture books and nonfiction children’s books get plucked quickly this time of year. However, if you have access to our Digital Library, you can read almost 400 digital children’s books about harvest.

Book cover for "The Turnip"

If your child has maxed out their allowable screen time, another option is to search for print books about individual fruits or vegetables, such as carrots, apples, pumpkins, and turnips.

The Turnip, by Jan Brett, is a great read that most people would likely miss in their search for harvest books. This story about Badger’s vegetable patch starts in autumn and ends in winter and is perfect as a seasonal tale. Badger has grown the largest turnip ever seen, but can she get it out of the ground? Other animals in the village offer to help because they all want to eat Badger’s crispy turnip pancakes.

Celebrating Arts & Humanities

October is National Arts and Humanities Month in the U.S., which makes fall a great time to create art with your little ones. Use your favorite search engine to find autumn art projects for toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids. Picture books about art perfectly complement these activities.

Here are three of my favorites.

Book cover for "What If..."

What If…, written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Mike Curato, explores the idea of creating art with limited (or no) supplies. Told in rhyme with vibrant images, the adorable protagonist finds ways to make art from dirt, sand, leaves, and even light. In the end, she concludes that “If I know nothing but one bit of fate… As long as I live, I will always create.”

Niko Draws a Feeling, written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Simone Shin, tells the heartwarming story of a boy who loves to draw intangible things, like the warmth of the sun and the ring-a-ling of a bell. None of the people in the protagonist’s life understand his artwork until a new girl moves in next door.

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, by Eric Carle, is a toddler-friendly classic with a positive message for all ages: Art allows us to imagine beyond what we see. Inspired by the German painter Franz Marc, Carle created a character who paints animals in unconventional colors (like a blue horse and a green lion). This book is also available in Spanish (en español).

Slightly Spooky Reading

Never fear when Halloween books mysteriously disappear! Instead, employ some creativity and look for books about monsters, witches, bats, black cats, spiders, and so on. Here are three of my favorite “non-holiday” slightly scary reads for small children.

Book cover for "Creepy Pair of Underwear!"

What Was I Scared Of?, by Dr. Seuss, tells of a narrator who keeps running into an empty, pale-green pair of pants that can animate themselves with no one inside them. Increasingly alarmed, the narrator shuns the pants and hides from them until realizing the pants are also scared. This classic tale about diversity and inclusion was one of my favorites when I was a small child.

Creepy Pair of Underwear!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown, follows the story of Jasper Rabbit, who convinces Mom to buy him fancy “creepy” underwear at the store because he’s “a big rabbit now!” But once he gets home, will Jasper regret that decision? Other fun books in Reynolds’ “Creepy” series include Creepy Crayon! and Creepy Carrots!.

I Love You More than the Smell of Swamp Gas, by Kevan Atteberry, will have your little monsters giggling. A father monster tells his little one how much he loves them. Rhyming text filled with vampire ducks, mummy fish, and other fanciful spooks accompanies fun illustrations full of toothy smiles.

You may also find a slightly spooky Halloween book to check out from this list of Awesome Autumn reads for kids.

Thanking Veterans

Veteran’s Day is observed annually on November 11, making autumn a suitable time to teach children about the sacrifices soldiers make for our country.

We carry over 150 children’s nonfiction titles about veterans. Here are two of the just over two dozen picture books on the topic, which range in setting from the Revolutionary War to today.

Book cover for "Hero Mom"

Hero Mom, written by Melinda Hardin and illustrated by Bryan Langdo, celebrates women—and especially mothers—who serve in the military. With concise text, a diverse group of children share the superhero qualities of their mothers who fly in to save the day (on a helicopter), utilize their healing powers (in medical units), and more.

When Your Daddy’s a Soldier, written by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan and illustrated by Eg Keller, provides an in-depth look at how overseas service affects families. In this age-appropriate story, a boy reveals the difficulty of saying goodbye, the complex emotions he has, and the reality of multiple deployments for military families.

Honoring Indigenous Cultures

Since 1970, the National Day of Mourning has been held on the same day as Thanksgiving to acknowledge the continuing struggles of Indigenous people and to educate Americans about the hundreds of Native cultures alive in America today. Here is a small sampling of picture books featuring Indigenous cultures.

Book cover for "Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story"

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, by Seminole author Kevin Noble Maillard and Peruvian American artist Juana Martinez-Neal, explores many things fry bread can represent. With poetic language and adorable images of a diverse cast, this story reveals the cultural complexity of a seemingly simple food in ways children will enjoy.

When We Were Alone, by Cree author David A. Robertson and Cree Métis artist Julie Flett, focuses on conversations between a girl and her kókom (grandmother). In age-appropriate ways, Kókom explains the struggles of life in a boarding school, and she also explains ways First Nations children maintained their culture and kinship during clandestine moments together.

Look Grandma! Ni, Elisi!, by Cherokee author Art Coulson and Chickasaw artist Madelyn Goodnight, tells the story of a boy who is excited to sell marbles at the Cherokee National Holiday celebration. But first, he must find a container the right size and shape to display them. This book explores math concepts, introduces some Cherokee vocabulary, and explains the game of Cherokee marbles. It’s available in Spanish (en español) as well.

Feeling Gratitude & Being Close to Family

Picture books focused on gratitude and family gatherings make great substitutes for Thanksgiving holiday books. The following are a few fantastic options.

Book cover for "Grandma's Tiny House"

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story!, written by Janay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Priscilla Burris, portrays a large extended family gathering at Grandma’s for a feast. Rhyming text and happy illustrations accompany opportunities for kids to count objects on every page. With roasted turkey and sweet-potato pie on the table, who cares if the trees are still green?

Our Table, by Peter H. Reynolds, follows the story of a girl who misses the togetherness of dinner with family. Now each member of the household stays focused on digital devices and no longer shares time together. Readers will feel heartened by this tale of a girl who figures out how to return her family to the table for meals and fellowship together.

Friendsgiving, written by Nancy Siscoe and illustrated by Sabina Gibson, offers an alternative story to traditional family gatherings. Photographs of cute, felted animal figurines accompany natural-sounding dialogue between a group of friends who enjoy autumn activities together. Their fun culminates in a Friendsgiving feast complete with a thankful tree.

Observing Religious & Cultural Festivals

The library’s collection offers children’s books related to more fall cultural and religious festivals celebrated in the U.S. too. Some of these holidays have already taken place in 2023, but it’s never too late to learn about them!

Book cover for "Mooncakes"
  • Yam festivals in September and October reflect cultural roots in Ghana and Nigeria.
  • Oktoberfest (Sep 16–Oct 3, 2023) celebrates Bavarian culture.
  • Rosh Hashanah (Sep 15–17, 2023), Sukkot (Sep 29–Oct 6, 2023), and Simchat Torah (Oct 7 & 8, 2023) are fall Jewish festivals.
  • The Muslim holiday Mawlid (Sep 26 & 27, 2023) celebrates the prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
  • The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival (Sept 29, 2023), has been celebrated in Chinese communities for over 3,000 years. Focused on abundance and family, the holiday is also celebrated in Japanese (Tsukimi), Vietnamese (Tết Trung Thu), and Korean (Chuseok) communities.
  • Día de los Muertos (Nov 1, 2023) is celebrated in Mexican communities to fondly remember and honor dead relatives.
  • Diwali (Nov 12, 2023) celebrates the Hindu Festival of Lights.
  • The Thai Lantern Festivals of Yi Peng and Loy Krathong (Nov 27 & 28, 2023) inspire beautiful light displays.

I wish you a fantastic fall this year, filled with fun and educational reading for you and your family!

Melissa Rhoades

Melissa Rhoades fulfilled a childhood dream when she started her first library position in 2016. As a Public Services Specialist at Spokane County Library District, she presents weekly storytimes, hosts programs, works on the 3D printing team, writes on the blog team, assists with collection maintenance, and tends the reference desk, among other tasks. Off the clock, she enjoys exploring the arts and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

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