A Leaf Can Be . . .

From the Series Can Be . . . Books

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 2
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

A leaf is a leaf, a bit of a tree. But just try to guess what else it can be!

A leaf can be a…shade spiller, mouth filler, tree topper, rain stopper. Find out about the many roles leaves play in this poetic exploration of leaves throughout the year.

Laura Purdie Salas’s lyrical, rhyming text and Violeta Dabija’s glowing illustrations make simple yet profound observations about seemingly ordinary objects and encourage readers to suggest “what else it can be!” Using metaphors for a leaf (tree topper / rain stopper), a rock (hopscotch marker / fire sparker), and water (thirst quencher / kid drencher), these insightful picture books creatively highlight a variety of roles and relationships in nature.

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Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 2
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Expository Literature
Copyright 2012
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Millbrook Press ™
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2012-01-01
Text Type Poetry
BISACS JNF037030, JNF037040, JNF051050
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Lexile 260
Guided Reading Level L
Features Awards, Original artwork, and Reviewed

Author: Laura Purdie Salas

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 135 books for kids, including If You Were the Moon, Lion of the Sky, theCan Be… series, and Bookspeak! Poems about Books. Poetry and rhyming nonfiction books are her favorite things to write. Laura loves to do author visits, writing workshops, and teacher inservices. Read more about Laura and her work at laurasalas.com.

Illustrator: Violeta Dabija

Violeta Dabija lives in Moldova, a small Eastern European country. She has a strong traditional art background, a BA degree in Fine Arts/Graphic Design and 10 years of experience as a children's book illustrator. She works in both traditional and digital media and often mixes them to produce delicate and atmospheric illustrations with a traditional feel. She has illustrated about 25 children's books and she enjoys creating magic pictures and unique environments for her characters.


  • ILA Teacher's Choices, Winner, 2014
  • Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Short-listed, 2013
  • Riverby Award, Winner, 2013
  • Golden Kite Award, Winner, 2013
  • NCTE Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts, Winner, 2013
  • Cream of the Crop for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Winner, 2012


Library Media Connection

“This creative book is applicable to a wide variety of lessons, but will also be in demand by readers for sheer enjoyment. It pairs an imaginative rhyming text with captivating and dreamlike illustrations that will be an effective discussion starter for the primary classroom studying leaves and trees. Students will be captivated as they explore the varying contributions leaves make to nature and wildlife through the seasons. The whimsical metaphors and unique vocabulary, which is explained in the final section, make this book a standout choice for older students too.” —Library Media Connection

Washington Parent

“This book is sure to open a child’s eyes to the wonder of the natural world.” —Washington Parent

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Each spread is bursting with natural wonder, and while the animals are cute rather than realistic, the art creatively and effectively supports the text’s evocation of the leafy world. This is an ideal curricular introduction to a unit on leaves, but it will also find plenty of readers drawn to its rich language and portrayal of the natural world.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

The New York Times Book Review

“Dabija, a Moldovan illustrator, saturates her pictures with lush color. Of course, there is lots of green but also dusty orange, misty lavender and deep mustard, in what is as much an exploration of the variation of color as it is of nature’s changeability. . . . Grown-up readers may be a bit in awe too.” —The New York Times Book Review


“A great read-aloud choice for fall story hours and classroom units on leaves.” —Booklist

School Library Journal

“A lovely observation about nature, suitable for a variety of science units or individual sharing.” —School Library Journal

Foreword Reviews

“A smart, sweet, and savvy meditation on form and function as well as a lesson in rhyming and alliteration that explores the many roles of a leaf.” —ForeWord Magazine

Kirkus Reviews

“Simple and pleasing, with classroom-discussion and read-aloud appeal.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly

“Salas explores the many functions a leaf can serve with simple grace…. Dabija bathes her mixed-media scenes in a fuzzy glow, creating a welcoming environment in every spread.” —Publishers Weekly