Fletcher and the Falling Leaves book image copyright and courtesy of Tiphanie Beeke
Comforting Anxious Children’s Soothing Story Selection 1
by Janis D. Gioia, MAEd.
Do you know a child who worries and struggles with changes?
I bet they would love to meet Fletcher.
Fletcher is a little fox with a big problem. His friend, and favorite tree, is changing before his eyes. Its once green leaves have gone from green to gold, fluttering to the ground faster than Fletcher can re-attach them.
Despite his mother’s assurance that it’s only autumn, Fletcher’s anxiety increases with each falling leaf. When the autumn wind and woodland animals steal the tree’s last treasures, Fletcher finds a lone leaf and promises, “I’ll stay with you, leaf, don’t worry.”
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves is a great story to read in the fall, snuggled up under a blanket with a mug of warm apple cider.
Capturing the essence of the fall season, author Julia Rawlinson’s tells the tale of this curious, sensitive and persistent little fox with beautiful poetic pose.
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves is a wonderful book for children who find anxiety in situations they don’t understand as well as those who are dealing with a sense of loss due to changes in their lives they can’t control.
It’s also Comforting Anxious Children’s first Soothing Story recommendation.
Illustrator Tiphanie Beeke’s soft illustrations bring the kind and gentle Fletcher to life, while creating nature scenes with a soft, soothing glow.
I asked Julia and Tiphanie about their inspirations for Fletcher.
Julia says, “As a character, I think there’s a lot of me as a child in Fletcher – I was a bit of a worrier too. I grew up near Richmond Park in London, which is a big deer park full of wildlife and beautiful old trees.”
“The inspiration for some of the stories came from my children – one of them did ask me to fasten a leaf back onto a tree, which gave me the idea for Fletcher and the Falling Leaves.”
Tiphanie shares “The inspiration for the Fletcher character was a soft toy fox that my friend had given to us when our son John was born. He is thirteen now and is still sentimentally attached to his fox, and I am too!”
The image above is the original “Fletcher.”
Children will probably enjoy seeing the little stuffed toy fox who became the inspiration of a series of amazing children’s books.
Fletcher’s tree (images below) stands in a field close to Julia’s home in London, England.
“There is a huge oak tree in the fields not far from where we live now that has become ‘Fletcher’s tree’,” says Julia.
“It looks very like the tree in Tiphanie’s beautiful illustrations. I loved climbing trees when I was a child – we had a lovely beech tree in our garden, and there was an oak on the local common with its bark rubbed smooth by generations of tree-climbers. I loved sitting amongst the leaves, hidden from the world below.”
I asked Tiphanie how she brought Fletcher and the scenery so beautifully to life.
She explains, “I used a mixture of watercolor and acrylic paint. I used watercolor for the backgrounds acrylic for the foreground because I find tone quite a challenge and some of my paintings looked quite flat.”
“Using watercolor for the backgrounds somehow pushed the scenery back while the acrylic (which is more opaque) brought the characters and closer up environment to the foreground.”
She concluded, “I like the atmospheric quality that watercolor can bring to a landscape and I think it represents the misty, foggy and subtle but rich colors of an autumn landscape.”
Tiphanie had never seen the photo of the tree that inspired Julia when she was writing the story.
Ironically, after Tiphanie painted the tree, Julia sent her a photo of the tree that was her inspiration. Julia was happy to see they were so similar.
Here are photos of Fletcher’s tree in summer and in winter:
Julia says that she didn’t intend to write a story with the intention that it would help a child with worries.
“I think a satisfying story will often be comforting, with things turning out right in the end – I like happy endings!”
Julia reports that, “Lots of people have gotten in touch to say how much (this book) has helped them, which is very heartwarming.”
Fletcher’s struggles to work his way through worries and loneliness will appeal to young children who are also trying to make sense of their world.
Experiencing the story, and seeing his triumph at the end will serve as a gentle inspiration that while things do change, there is beauty and peace in every new experience.
Learning how the author and illustrator created Fletcher gives the story more depth and meaning for a child.
And maybe, when the time is right, you can encourage your child to create a story about one of their favorite stuffed animals.
I’m sure that Fletcher and the Falling Leaves will become one of your child’s (or your classroom’s) favorites.
Here’s some good news: Fletcher’s story continues in three other books by this dynamic author/illustrator team:
Fletcher and the Christmas Snowflake
Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms
Fletcher’s Big Show