The cover wasn't what caught the attention of my 5-year-old daughter, Hadley, though. It was the picture accompanying the publication information page: the older sister, Flora, working intently on painting a picture alongside a bored-looking younger brother, Crispin. The picture on the opposite page was of the same scene, only this time Crispin had knocked over everything on the table — paints, picture and jar of crayons. This is an experience Hadley can relate to, thanks to her 3-year-old sister, Pippa.
In the story, Flora and Crispin's mother send them outside on a fall day. The siblings pull on their boots and jackets and head out into the gusty afternoon. Flora's weighty red boots keep her grounded but her poor younger brother doesn't have the privilege of such fine footwear and ends up in the air, lifted by the wind along with the red and golden leaves. Flora quickly discards her boots in an effort to retrieve her brother and gets swept up with him. They float through the sky, coming into contact with various personified things, including rainbows, clouds and the moon, until the wind sends them on their way home. Through the course of their shared adventure, Flora realizes that maybe she doesn't really mind her little brother so much.
Phelan’s illustrations and color palette are pleasing; the fall leaves floating through the air remind me of the ones outside our window this time of year. And the dynamic between the kids and their mother, who ushers them outside, reminded me of my own carefree childhood. I also appreciated the story's rich vocabulary, which prompted questions from Hadley like "Mom, what's a talon?” and “What are bellows?” Any story that introduces a few (but not too many) new words, is a keeper in my book.
As we reached the last page, where a grounded Flora and Crispin share cookies made by their mother, Hadley’s mouth stretched into a smile as she noticed Flora's arm reaching around her brother. I could only surmise that she identified with that feeling of gratitude for the same sibling that kind of drives you crazy that only a big sister or brother can understand.