Crow spots a ‘strange white creature’ floating towards the shore on a piece of ice. As the beast makes home in a nearby cave, the surrounding forest animals try to make sense of the new arrival. The majority feel frightened and threatened, and the creature’s odd leaf-collecting habit only deepens their suspicions. As the creature begins covering his body in leaves and hurling himself across the waves, the wise crows come to a startling conclusion – maybe this stranger is simply lost and just trying to find his way home…

Diekmann’s dreamlike narrative draws on both fables and magical realism, captivating the reader through word and image. The language is simple and engaging, yet it carries great depth and poignancy. The text also makes clever use of point of view in order to highlight issues of difference and perspective. The mixed-media illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, suffused with vibrant colour and rich detail. Dieckmann ensures that the animals appear life-like, paying close attention to appearance and anatomy through line and shape. In contrast, their natural surroundings are more stylised and romanticised. Dieckmann makes marvellous use of pattern, shape and texture to depict a wealth of flora, foliage, and landscapes.

Leaf can be read on numerous levels, from the personal to the global. The narrative certainly seems concerned with a wide variety of important issues, including discrimination, displacement, climate change, environmental devastation and animal endangerment. At its most basic level, this heart-warming tale carries vital messages about compassion and understanding.

A stunning début!