The Great Leaf Blast-Off
By John Himmelman
July 1990
Silver Seedling Easy Reader
John Himmelman's Stories' Stories
Book #17
This 4-book series came about in an interesting way. Deborah Michel and Marcia Leonard of Small PackagesInc. contacted me with a story and character concept. I had worked with them before as an illustrator for Rainboots for Breakfast and Shopping for Snowflakes. This would be about a family of beavers who ran a repair shop. Deborah and Marcia wanted four 48-page books, I Can Read-style. The beavers' names would be Willa and Orville Wright, and their kids -Alexander, Graham, and Belle. 

It would be up to me to come up with the stories and illustrations. 

The series was sold to Silver Burdette. Packaging companies like Small Packages were a lot more common in the 80's and early 90's. They created book projects - with stories and art - that were sold to publishers. It's almost like an agency, except they have a more active hand in coming up with the original ideas. 

Each book began with the introduction to the family, much like hearing all the player's names in the opening of every  Giligan's Island episode, and what I did for the Bunjitsu Bunny series 25 years later.

(After typing this, I tried reading the opening to the Giligan's Island theme in my head - it worked great through half of it.)
So, what they did here, and in all the books, was turn everyday household items into some kind of invention to solve the problem du jour. Some of these were a real challenge to come up with. While most of them would not work that great in real life, there had to be some logic to their construction. 

Note the batteries powering the inventions. I thought it best not to encourage little kids to play with electricity.
Belle, the youngest, is always counted out until the end. Again, there's sort of logic to how her leaf-removing bike works (to her it's a space ship), in that one gear turns another. 

I think this is my first attempt at painting fall leaves, which in the beginning was daunting to think about.
I often like to have the 
last page as just a picture. 
No words, as in this one, where the reader learns where all the leaves went.
For Joanie, one of the all time great sister-in-laws!