On a warm August day, the wind tickled an old oak’s boughs and touched a ruffled leaf.
“I’m just a plain old oak leaf,” Leaf sighed. “No one can tell us apart! I wish I were different.”
“Cheer-rup!” sang a sparrow, “You’ll change soon!”
In October, Leaf said, “Brrrr! What a cold wind!”
The leaf beside it was ripped away. I twirled through the air like a ballerina.
“Take me, wind,” Leaf cried. “Make me fly!”
“Not yet!” chirped a cricket in the grass.
In November the leaves changed color. Some were sunshine yellow. Others were robin-breast red. But Leaf was still green.
“I want to turn beautiful colors,” Leaf sighed.
“Wait a while!” croaked a sleepy toad.
Leaf watched one day as a man piled the leaves with a rake. A little boy called, “Whee!” and dived in. Leaves flew everywhere.
“That looks like fun!” Leaf cried.
“Not long! Not long!” honked the geese flying overhead.
Finally, the wind ripped Leaf from the tree. Leaf soared high into the sky.
“Whee! I’m free!” Leaf cried.
Leaf landed near yellow maple leaves and orange beech leaves.
“Am I as beautiful as you?” it asked.
“Sure are,” a maple leaf answered. “Yellow in the middle with red edges.”
“That’s just how I wanted to look!” Leaf cried.
When the man raked again, Leaf cried, “Hoo hoo! That tickles! What’s next?”
“Wait and see!” mewed a striped cat passing by.
One day, three children jumped in the leaf pile. Leaf sailed high above the oak tree. Partway down, it got stuck in a branch.
“Oh no!” it cried. “I’m back where I started!”
“You’re different now!” a chickadee chirped.
It was true. Leaf’s bright fall coat was now dull brown.
“I’m old,” Leaf sighed. “Is there nothing more?”
Then the man put the leaves in a bag and took them away.
“Where are they going?” Leaf wondered.
“To the compost pile,” whispered a shy little wren.
The next morning, Squirrel clambered out onto the branch where Leaf was hanging.
“What a fine leaf!” she squealed.
She held Leaf carefully in her mouth and took it to her nest.
“What’s happening?” Leaf asked, afraid.
“You’ll keep my babies warm this winter,” Squirrel said as she tucked Leaf into the edges of her nest.
“And then what?”
“Then you’ll fall to the ground and help things grow.”
“I’ll help things grow?” Leaf asked.
“Yes,” Squirrel said as she curled up in her warm nest.
“Little things, like the flowers I saw blooming when I was just a little green leaf last spring?”
“Yes,” Squirrel said as she tucked her tail over her nose.
“Big things? Even things as big as an oak tree?” Leaf asked.
“That’s what leaves are for,” Squirrel said, yawning.
As Squirrel drifted into sleep, Leaf thought over its life.
“I’ve been a young, green leaf in a tree,” Leaf said. “I’ve been a yellow leaf with red edges on the ground.”
“Now I’m a dry, brown leaf. But I’ll keep young squirrels warm all winter. And next spring, I’ll help flowers and even an oak tree grow.”
Leaf sighed, letting its edges rest against the sides of Squirrel’s nest.
“Leaves are wonderful, aren’t they?”