Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall

Yerxa, Leo (Author/Illustrator)
Groundwood Books 2012. 32 pages
First published: 1994
ISBN: 9781554981243 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book
Book genre: Folklore

Text Elements:

figurative language, layout, multimodal, setting

Awards

Governor General’s Literary Award – Finalist – 1993
Mr. Christie’s Book Award – 1993
Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award – 1994

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This picture book conveys a father and son’s forest journey as winter draws near, beginning with a beautifully descriptive poem about the dawn of creation: “Before raindrops washed spider webs and dust/Before the first stone skipped across water/… Before the first man crushed dried leaves/beneath his feet, hurrying to who knows where/Before seeing, before being/Before valentines and wildflowers.”

The narration shifts from an omniscient perspective to the particular (“I touched the frost on the window with my nose”) as a father and son leave their crooked shack in the woods on a canoe journey.

Illustrations rich in colour and details use paper collage effects to compose autumn forest scenes of animals, canoe travel, and cooking and camping under the stars. In one image, the graceful spines of silver birches bend toward a beaver couple, rippling through sheer blue waters toward their dam. Another shows the humans paddling along a route that seems speckled with stardust. In the foreground a large fish prepares to devour a school of smaller fish.

Allegorical images and language celebrate a respectful wonder of nature, while portraying a child’s cozy sense of adventure under the care of a knowledgeable guardian. “Our footprints … would tell the other animals of our visit to the swamp.” The story ends with the fall of first snow and the boy makes the first tracks in it: “I arose from the earth/and walked into the light/of a new season.”

  •  

    By way of introduction, list what you notice about the text and illustrations. Keep a running list of elements as the text is read and refer to them when exploring genre convention and writing/illustration styles.

  •  

    Choose a section and consider the way text and image support or contradict each other and how they work together to convey meaning.

  •  

    Use this as a model for writing narrative texts.

  •  

    Briefly sketch three changes that take place between fall and winter in Canada. Ask a partner to guess what they are. Afterward, discuss the following question: do people also change with the seasons?

  •  

    As you read this free verse poem, take note of ten colourful adjectives the author uses to describe nature and its elements.

  •  

    Using (five or more) of the colourful adjectives you found, write your own free verse poem about the transition from winter to spring in Canada.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To use creativity
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Environmental Awareness and Consumer Rights and Responsibilities
  • Science and Technology
  • Visual Arts