The Truth About Leaf Collections

As a middle school teacher in a school where the huge 7th grade leaf collection project is downright infamous, I thought I’d done my research for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z (Walker Books, Fall ’09).   It’s a funny, contemporary novel about a girl whose 7th grade leaf collection project is ruining her life.  I’d heard the horror stories of kids getting caught in mean neighbors’ yards, stealing leaves off their trees.  I’d heard tales of the all-nighters kids pulled, securing the last few sets of leaves into their binders.  But until this fall, I’d never watched my very own 7th grader complete a leaf project of his own. 

To be sure, it’s meant some beautiful autumn hikes for leaf collecting…

Point Au Roche State Park on Lake Champlain

But the leaf project also has a dark side. This is what my living room looked like last weekend, when son and his two friends were working…

My manuscript is in copy edits right now.  Do you supposed I’ll have a chance to go back and add a few more details about the impact Gianna’s leaf project had on the rest of her household?  We’re still vacuuming pine needles here (Or are they spruce needles…? I’ll have to check the key…)

25 Replies on “The Truth About Leaf Collections

  1. I have to say, I’ve been loving lines like these:

    “whose 7th grade leaf collection project is ruining her life”
    “horror stories of kids getting caught in mean neighbors’ yards, stealing leaves”
    “the leaf project also has a dark side”

    Leaf collecting once sounded so sweet and innocent! Do kids gather behind the school, whispering, “I’ll trade you a red maple for a sweetgum …”

  2. sigh. I remember collecting autumn leaves with my kids and ironing them between two sheets of waxed paper and hanging them in windows like stained glass. Your kid’s project sounds a wee bit more extensive! And I am sure your choices for autumn leaves is way more amazing.

  3. Actually…there is rumored to be a secret tree map that the more connected parents share. “Sycamore at the corner of Main and Green St…” That sort of thing. I, apparently lacking these connections, have never seen it, but it made me laugh to hear about it.

  4. Oh, the memories! My son had a leaf project in third grade . . . that was two years ago, and I still have the urge to bring home any new and unusual leaves I find!

    I love the premise for Gianna!

  5. I feel so sorry I missed you last Saturday. I had you on the calendar at work. Then work started and suddenly it was one o’clock!

    My leaf memories don’t come from grade school, but I recall a similar fun mess in my dorm at UVM.

  6. Tree map? LOL!

    What a great excuse to be outside this time of year and make kids aware of what surrounds them instead of the tiny display on their cell phones 😛

  7. My son said the other day, “I’m never going to be able to look at a tree just as a tree again. They’re all oaks, maples, elms…” I told him his science teacher would be proud.

  8. Flying Pig was fun – I love that place (particularly the shopping I do after the event!) But if your fall schedule is anything like mine, I so understand how you’d lose track of time.

  9. My son’s leaf project is a collection of 25 different species that grow here in the Northeast. My “leaf project” is a middle grade novel with Walker Books that will be out next fall. (His has been considerably messier!)

  10. We’ve had gorgeous fall weather here, so we’ve all enjoyed spending a little extra time outside in the name of the leaf project. And yes, I agree – it’s great to get kids outside exploring!

  11. Yes…well…I had to take my daughter to skating, so my husband was “supervising” when they started. By the time I got home, the damage was sort of done. :^)

  12. Fall fell, all right!

    To be honest, going through the revision/editing process after a sale is way less stressful for me than doing it on my own. I’m working with three editors at three different houses right now, and they’re ALL the smartest, nicest, friendliest people you could ever imagine, so the process has actually been a pleasure. I’m very curious about my first experience with copy edits with a big house and looking forward to that!

  13. Ironically I found this page as a teacher in just such a 7th grade classroom trying to find ways of revising the infamous leaf collection project.

    1. This made me smile – hope your students have a great time with their leaf projects, and by all means…please let them know that if they want to feel less alone, they can pick up The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and have some company!