A Leaf Can Be…

Today we have a lovely new picture book A Leaf Can Be . . . (Millbrook Picture Books) with poetic text by Laura Purdie Salas and breathtaking illustrations by Violeta Dabija. This book has been generating a lot of excitement in the children’s literature world (See my review at Wrapped in Foil).

In the book Salas gently describes leaf “jobs,” which are all the roles that leaves may play.  “A leaf can be a…Shade spiller…Mouth filler…Tree topper…Rain stopper….” She covers not only the basics, such as that leaves are where plants make food, but also more whimsical and imaginative uses, such as they serve as a place to conceal moths or snakes. She includes a section “More About Leaves” in the backmatter that feels and looks like she is sharing her handwritten research notes.

The mixed-media illustrations by Violeta Dabija are in a class by themselves. They “leave” this veteran book reviewer speechless (The video trailer below does not do justice to their beauty).

The bottom line is that A Leaf Can Be . . . is sure to be a winner with budding scientists.

Activities to investigate leaves, inspired by A Leaf Can Be . . .:

Make a leaf collection to study leaf form and function.

There are many, many ways to make a leaf collection.

My new favorite way to preserve leaves is to scan them.

Simply lay fresh or dry leaves on the bed of a scanner. Rather than using the machine cover, which might crush the leaves, gently cover with cloth or a large piece of construction paper to serve as a backdrop. Scan and save electronically. Now you can add your scans to an electronic journal or print them out for a paper one. No more lost or crushed specimens.

Be sure to include information about when and where you collected your leaves and any information you have about the identity of the plant. Collections like this can be an important learning and research tool, as well as a useful reference resource.

With the excitement of spring, with all the glorious new plant growth,  it is a perfect time to investigate leaves.

Related activities:

1. Laura Purdie Salas has a teaching guide to use with the book on her website, with suggestions for art, science, math and literature activities.

2.The Botany & Art, and their roles in Conservation lesson plans include a podcast about botanical illustration. as well as other materials (at the Smithsonian).

3. Bookish Ways in Math and Science has a unit on plants that includes a “Leafy Comparison.”

4. Shirley at Simply Science has a review of A Leaf Can Be . . . and suggests taking a leaf walk.

5. Older children and adults might enjoy these leafy puns at The New York Times.

A Leaf Can Be . . .

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Millbrook Pr Trade (February 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0761362037
ISBN-13: 978-0761362036

Disclosures: The author provided an electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.


  1. laurasalas

    Wow! What a great round-up of ideas, Roberta–thank you! I especially love the idea of just scanning leaves with a colored backdrop. I can’t believe how detailed the ones you shared are.

  2. Roberta

    It is great to hear from you, Laura. I was so inspired by your book.

  3. Claudia

    Nice Art-Work. 🙂

  4. Shirley

    I loved this book, too! You’ve given excellent ideas to go with it and I loved the “leaves” part of your review. I hope everyone reads it.

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