Turning leaves remind me of the rich illustrations in a good many children’s books, not least of which is Little Blue Truck written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. Even better, this timeless story has nothing in particular to do with changing seasons, so you can reach for it at any time of year.

A personified old-fashioned pickup truck putters through the autumnal countryside, greeting all his animal friends with a good-natured honk of the horn. The animals reply cheerfully to their pal, but are shocked when a big dump truck rudely barrels through without so much as a how-do-you-do. When the dump truck rushes headlong into a puddle and gets stuck, no one wants to help him… except the good Little Blue Truck. He too gets bogged down in the mire, but when he beeps for assistance everyone comes running to help; and the big truck learns a little something about the value of friendship.

Published exclusively in board-book form, this hearty tale of friendship and kindness is perfect for babies through about first grade. The rhyming format is pleasant to read, and is repetitive enough to give even very small listeners a hint of what is coming, and so ensures their rapt participation. Identifying the animals – and making the associated noises – makes this tremendous fun to read aloud.

As I mentioned, the illustrations depict a charming fall setting; but this story is a winner all year round. Warm rural scenery and the sweet vintage truck make readers feel very much at home. The lovable characters – all farmyard favorites – have been developed into a series, largely focusing on various holidays. I don’t find the other titles that I have come across to be as perfectly endearing (or clever) as the original, but children love recognizing familiar faces in a series so it may be worth checking them out seasonally from the library.

Little Blue Truck is a simple reminder to readers of all ages: that relationships take time to build; that friends are always ready to serve one another; that true kindness offers itself even where none has been shown. Factor in the opportunity to bleat, cluck, croak, and honk; and you might have one of the best children’s books ever.

If you liked this book you might also enjoy: Otis the Tractor by Loren Long

(To be honest, I don’t really care for the Otis stories. I find the caricatures of farm life to be oversimplified and silly, and the plots to be sentimental and contrived. However, they do seem to hit the right note with children, and they are mild and wholesome with an emphasis on kindness. So if your little one loved Little Blue Truck, by all means ignore my objections and give it a try.)