Children’s Book Giveaway: All the Places to Love and How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird.
September 29, 2011

Charlotte and I spent a huge chunk of yesterday afternoon perusing the children’s section of the library.  We pulled up a bean bag and I just let her bring books to me as they caught her fancy.

This is one of my daughter’s favorite things to do.  When we pull into the library parking lot, she goes bananas.  Once upon a time, the only thing that kid thought was worth getting worked up about was my boobs.  Now my mammary glands have been replaced by the Berenstein Bears.  You know what the perfect word for this situation is?  BITTERSWEET.

I mean, on the one hand I’m thrilled that my nipples can finally catch a break.  THE OTHER HAND is the problem, though.  On the other hand, my kid thinks bunch of goody-two-shoes beasts are cooler than me.  ME!  SHE WHO BIRTHED THE CHILD!  Shouldn’t that give me a coolest-person-ever pass for at least three or four years?

Anyway, that’s not the point.  The point is that while I was knee-deep in a heartfelt discussion about why fake bears should not pollute and it occurred to me that now that we have a book rotation system that works for our family, now is as good a time as any to start talking about children’s books again.

So here are two books in our current rotation that I have been dying to share:

All the Places to Love is written by Patricia MacLachlan and brilliantly, beautifully illustrated by Mike Wimmer.  I recommend this book CONSTANTLY, it is one of my favorite discoveries of the year and I hope that it goes down as a classic.  It’s about a boy experiencing for himself all the places that his parents and grandparents love most.

Wimmer’s paintings are stunning, realistic, and detailed.  He is clearly a very well-trained artist.  It’s hard to believe anybody can paint like that.  The first time I opened the book, I flipped right to the page with the grandmother holding the baby up to the window and it wasn’t until I saw the other illustrations that I could be certain they were paintings, not photographs.  Seriously.

The book also has a very strong natural component, which I think is part of the reason that Charlotte and I both enjoy it so much.  She loves seeing the images of wildflowers, dogs, a stream, cattails, etc.  And I love reading the sentiments to her and helping recreate some of them in our own life.  I can’t wait until the creek fills up again in spring so that I can try sending her little bark boats from a few feet away.  All the Places to Love also lends itself to discussions about siblings, conservation, sustainability, and what really matters in life.

As a last note, the two children in the story are both born at home.  I personally love this detail.  I can pretty much guarantee that I will never birth at home – it simply isn’t something I’m comfortable with for myself – but I do think it’s a very nice touch.

And How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird, written by Jacques Prevert and translated and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, is one of the most creative storybooks we own.

Gerstein’s artwork is vibrant and fun, but Prevert’s concept really steals the show.  It is unique (I’d tell you the plot, but the title actually says it all: it’s a whimsical guide on painting a bird) and children we share this book with are always fascinated.  It opens the doors for discussion about goals, perseverance, and patience – and it’s imaginative enough to not bore me when I’m reading it for the seven millionth time in two days.

More than anything, though, How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird has proven to be an excellent book for Charlotte simply because art fascinates her.  She has never met an art project that she does not like, but it is remarkably difficult to find books about art that she can identify with.  I love that this book encourages artistic imagination.

Prevert’s book also entertains Charlotte for a good thirty minutes each time we bust it out.  I’ve had to move this book to the end of our morning circle time because after I read it a few times, she wants to sit with it quietly for awhile and soak in the illustrations by herself.  It’s the cutest damned thing, but also?  I think we can all agree that thirty minutes of toddler enthrallment is a good thing.

What to do: You can enter this giveaway by leaving a comment below or sending me an e-mail answering this: do you have any favorite kid books about nature or art?  All you need is an e-mail address.  The giveaway ends next Thursday evening at 9 P.M. Pacific Time.  You can leave one entry every day.  There will be two winners.

To purchase this book: You can buy either of these books through Better World Books (just click the title you’re interested in: All the Places to Love or How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird, through Amazon.com (again, click the title of interest: All the Places to Love or How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird or you can locate a local retailer through Indie Bound.org.

Harper Collins Childrens | Harper Collins Childrens on Facebook | Mike Wimmer
Roaring Brook Press | MacMillan Kids on Facebook | Mordecai Gerstein


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  1. By on September 29, 2011

    One of our favorites that we got from the library a few weeks ago is Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella, Fairy of the Forest.  My little girl loves to pick out the snails (NAI!), butterflies (BUH-FLE), and dog (AR AR!) on each page.  Sweet story about siblings and an appreciation for nature (and fairies).

  2. By on September 29, 2011

    At the moment our favorite is Going on a Bear Hunt.  We use our arms to swish through the grass and get our feet stuck in the mud… our 19m/o’s favorite thing to point out on each page is the dog, though!

  3. By Sarah on September 29, 2011

    i always liked the one about the ducklings. That might be the name of it. I would know it if I saw it. It was an older book and my Gramae used to read it to me. I especially loved it because we had pet ducks on our farm.

  4. By on September 29, 2011

    You know, I think that How to Draw a Bird might be the only children’s book I’ve heard of that is about art. And my Charlotte LOVES art. One of the things I like most about her daycare is that they had her doing art projects even when she was as young as 4 months old, and she love, love, loves it.

    So if I don’t win, maybe that will be her Christmas book this year.

  5. By on September 29, 2011

    My favorite is Red Sings From Treetops By Joyce Sidman; Pamela Zagarenski.  Unfortunately after reading it constantly for about a month my daughter (19 months) has moved on to other books to obsessively read, but I miss Red!

  6. By on September 29, 2011

    My son is only 9 months so all he really wants to do is eat books, but I’ve always enjoyed The Hungry Caterpillar. . . .I’m really going to like your reviews since I have so few friends with kids.  I need some good recommendations!

  7. By on September 29, 2011

    My girls current favorite book is The Big Red Barn. They love to point to the animals and make the corresponding animal sounds. We also talk about the crops in the field. One of my all time favorites.

  8. By Megan Stilley on September 29, 2011

    The Giving Tree is a classical favorite.  We are still working hard on our book collection here.

  9. By on September 29, 2011

    We love Discovering Nature’s Alphabet—beautiful photos!

  10. By Alicia S. on September 29, 2011

    The Giving Tree is super special in this house. It was my husband’s favorite book as a kid—the first one he learned to read on his own, and consequently his favorite one to read to his 3 younger siblings. when Matthew started to learn how to read just before turning 3, it was of the utmost importance to my husband that The Giving Tree be his third birthday gift. He can’t read the whole thing yet, but we take turns reading pages together - my husband, then me, then Matthew. I’ll remember reading this story together forever.

  11. By on September 29, 2011

    I do own and love The Giving Tree but never really thought of it as a book about nature. I don’t think I really have any books about nature or art. The closest I can think of is Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boot. My Joanna loves this story.

  12. By Christy on September 29, 2011

    We love The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  We read it almost every day.  Lil loves to “read” the books when we are done, especially this one.

  13. By on September 29, 2011

    Eric Carlile- Brown Bear. I’m always imagining the behind the scenes efforts of how to make the animals look as they do.

  14. By Bree on September 29, 2011

    We like the Little Golden Book, Farm Animals and The Shy Kitten. I’ve had these books since I was little and I love reading to my girls the stories that I begged 100x to be read.

  15. By on September 29, 2011

    I am new to reading about Charlotte and your adventures! I went through all your old book reviews and now have a wonderful selection to borrow and buy. One of our favorite that I think constitutes as being about art is Beautiful Oops!

  16. By Jenny | The Balow Bunch on September 29, 2011

    Yea! Your giveaways are back! I love the book, “On the Day you were born.“ It’s awesome!

  17. By on September 29, 2011

    Lately we’ve been reading Guess How Much I Love You? quite a bit. My 19 month old and I both enjoy the illustrations of the hares.

  18. By carricomom on September 29, 2011

    Bugoves the wide mouth frog. It’s a pop up book. She also likes the hungry caterpillar. I try to read to her little 8 month old wild child self as much as possible. But its getting increasingly hard to get her to sit still. And she wants to do everything herself now. I love watching her leaf through the pages on her own.

  19. By on September 29, 2011

    I’m so glad you’re back to reviewing children’s books - we’re slowly growing our 15 month olds library and are always looking for new books.  I love The Curious Garden although it’s still not a hit with my son…yet :)

  20. By on September 29, 2011

    Hmm.. lots of our books have themes that incorporate nature… and it’s hard to pick a favorite.

    You suggested “Me, All Alone at the end of the world” and there was a very long period of time when that book would be read at least once a day in our house.

    The Lorax also has a nature preservation theme and even thought it takes it’s turn going in and out of our most frequently read pile, it’s without a doubt one of MY favorite children’s books. Ever.

  21. By on September 29, 2011

    600 black spots and the rest of the collection by David A. Carter are great art books for kids and adults, my whole family loves them!

  22. By on September 29, 2011

    My son (25mo) loves Let’s Grow a Garden.“  Really he loves all of the Gyo Fujikawa books.  The illustrations are simple and easy for him to understand.

  23. By on September 30, 2011

    Does “The Giving Tree” count as a nature book!! Love Love Love that book!!

  24. By Molly the Librarian on September 30, 2011

    One of my very favorite books about art is David Wiesner’s fairly new title “Art and Max.“  Art and Max are two lizard buddies who are very different.  Art is a serious artiste and Max is fun loving and wild.  Hilarity and chaos ensures when Max tries to take over the paintbrush to make a portrait of his friend.  The illustrations are just wild as they cycle through different art styles and messy paint, and it’s a ton of fun.  My 5 year old nephew really digs it.

  25. By on September 30, 2011

    YEAH, so glad you are doing this again, thank you!!!!

    Right now my little one is hooked on Clare Beaton books - how big is a pig - from an early giveaway - so thank you again!  also how loud is a lion and theres a cow in my cabbage patch…love them!

  26. By on September 30, 2011

    One of my favorite children’s book artists is Tommie dePaola. I love “The Art Lesson” as it is a wonderful children’s story that is basically an autobiography about how he was encourged at a young age to make art. If you haven’t checked that one out, I highly recommend it!

    Question: Has Charlotte always been gentle with non-board books? We try non-board books with my 22-month son, but he’s prone to rip the pages. Just wondering if we’ll see a turning point anytime soon or if it’s more just different personalities at play.

  27. By on September 30, 2011

    We found a nice one at the library the other day:  Little Green by Keith Baker.  About a hummingbird and a painter who is watching it and records its flight.  Very pretty book.

  28. By on October 01, 2011

    our current favorite is AFairy Went A-Marketing by Rose Fyleman. the pictures are so beautiful. and the story has a nice message.

  29. By Stacey on October 01, 2011

    We love the very hungry caterpillar and the big red barn. I love reading with my little man because it gives me such a good excuse for some extra cuddle time :).

  30. By on October 01, 2011

    We like the illustrations in Make Way for Ducklings.  That area of Boston is just so beautiful.

  31. By on October 01, 2011

    Our favoriye nature book is Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver

  32. By beyond on October 02, 2011

    “planting a rainbow”. love that book, and it’s gorgeously illustrated.

  33. By on October 02, 2011

    When i went to Paris a few years back, we visited the Louvre and when we got to the souvenir shop there were so many children’s books related to art and nature i couldn’t resist picking some up. One of my daughter’s favorite is called “Le pique-nique de Gaspard et Lisa”...all the illustrations are painted and as the title suggests the story is about a family’s experience going on a picnic. My daughter lets me read it to her in french even though she doesn’t quite understand yet! Another one i got which seems to really interest my son at the moment is called :“Les 5 sens au Musee”.. there aren’t too many words but all the illustrations are pieces of art from the Louvre (sculpture, painting, etc) and they fit them all in categories according to our senses.  My son loves that!

  34. By Alicia S. on October 05, 2011

    Molly—I have wanted Art and Max from the first time I saw it at Barnes and Noble! I started flipping through it, and I couldn’t stop. I’m ashamed to say that I have no real art books for my children… :-(

    (nudge, nudge…) ;-)

  35. By Ali on October 05, 2011

    I have a 3 year old boy and a 1 year old boy, so I’ll give you our favorite “Art” books for each age. For my 3 year old, it’s the book “Art” by Patrick McDonnell. It’s simple, creative, cute, and as they say, has some freewheeling energy. It has some rhymes, too, which my son loves.

    For the little guy, he is obsessed with our Touch the Art: Pop Warhol’s top book (we LOVE the touch the art series). Of course, the favorite page is the last icky sticky mustard bread one. I love that it incorporates modern art, and letting the kids “explore” the paintings. Simple, but really fun.

  36. By on October 06, 2011

    Does “Press Here” by Herve Tulle count as art?  I think it should it doesn’t!  Although my little guy can’t follow the instructions just yet, it won’t be long before we get more fun out of it than just the asthetics!

  37. By Sabrina on October 06, 2011

    We love the very hungry caterpillar! 
    Love your blog!!

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