Children’s Book Giveaway: Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm and Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
November 10, 2011

A friend recently asked for children’s book recommendations for her girls.  I immediately wrote up a quick list of our favorites.

When I was thinking about what I wanted to share today on my blog, I kept thinking about that list and I knew it was time for another book review.  I’ve mentioned both of these books in passing before, but although these two always make our list of recommendations for other parents I’ve never taken the time to write about them individually.

Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm, written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Mark Buehner, is a book I first came across about a year ago.  I fell completely head over heels the minute I laid eyes on it.

The biggest thing that Nolen’s book has going for it is originality.  This is a common element in every book written by Nolen that I have ever seen, actually.  She has a fantastic imagination and this particular story features a man named Harvey Potter who grows, harvests, and sells balloons the way that other people grow corn and tomatoes.

A year ago when I first began reading this book to Charlotte, her favorite part was just looking at the colorful images.  Now that she understands the text, though, she really enjoys the voice and the language pattern in which it is written – but I will be the first to admit that you either love this storytelling device or you do not.  I love it and I th-ink it adds richness to the story, but I have also read reviews that called it demeaning on the grounds that the narrator, a young Black girl, sounds uneducated.  Personally, I think that’s overkill, but to each their own.

Our family (especially Donald) also thoroughly enjoys Mark Buehner’s artwork.  We have a few books illustrated by Buehner and they are always huge hits because he tucks fun little somethings into each illustration.  In Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm, for example, there are animals hidden on each page.  Sometimes they are obvious – a cow in the pasture or beside the porch – and other times they are hidden as a cloud or a balloon or a shadow.

And Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop is a book I picked up at a thrift shop when Charlotte was an infant.  It caught my eye because my father and my husband are both very interested in woodworking, but I also think it’s a very fun book for kids.

In Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop, Lisa Shulman adapted the song lyrics to support woodworking.  Old MacDonald, a ewe, has tools in her woodshop: a hammer, a chisel, a saw, and so on – and each tool makes a sound, just as the traditional version of the Old MacDonald song includes animal sounds.  In the end, each of the animals on the farm has contributed to a woodworking project.

Naturally, Charlotte’s favorite part of this book are the sounds.  She LOVES making tool sounds.  My favorite part is the ending, which I think is ridiculously adorable.  And Donald likes Ashley Wolff’s illustrations, which have a very warm and classic feel to them.

What to do: You can enter this giveaway by leaving a comment below or sending me an e-mail answering this: who are your favorite illustrators of children’s books?  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: Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm or Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop, through Amazon.com (again, click the title of interest: Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm or Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop or you can locate a local retailer through Indie Bound.org.

Harper Collins Childrens | Harper Collins Childrens on Facebook | Jerdine Nolen | Buehner Books
Penguin Group | Lisa Shulman | Ashley Wolff


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  1. By missjoules on November 10, 2011

    Ooooh I am so glad that you asked this question because I am 100% in love with Oliver Jeffers’ illustrations. I think we have all of his books now, but my favourite is “Stuck” which just came out in America yesterday, I think. Love that story, I bought one for my best friend’s son and even considered asking you if I could send a copy for Charlotte because it is AWESOME that you are always giving away books and I thought you guys might like it. But then I thought that might be weird, but if you want a copy let me know!

  2. By on November 10, 2011

    I love illustrations by Maurice Sendak.  Besides the fabulous Where the Wild Things are I love Pierre and Chicken Soup with Rice.

  3. By on November 10, 2011

    yey ! books !
    My favourite illustrator is hands down Gabrielle Vincent. If you get a chance, check out her french books called Ernest et Célestine.

  4. By on November 10, 2011

    Not to jump on a bandwagon, but I also love Maurice Sendak.  His illustrations don’t just make my heart sing, but they stick to me and improve my days!

  5. By Ali on November 10, 2011

    So many good ones! We love Graeme Base, Jan Brett, and I always loved Steven Kellog and the simplicity of Shel Silverstein.

  6. By Kimberly O'Rosky on November 10, 2011

    I always look forward to your book recommendations! I’ve never heard of the first book. Looks like I need to add it to my expanding list. I’ve got the Old McDonald One saved from the last time you mentioned it. I tend to be drawn to felt illustrations. Our current favs are How Big is a Pig and Wheels on the Bus. I also like the colors in all of the Lois Ehlert books. However, my daughter was just given 4 of the Fisher Price Little People flap books. She looks at those constantly pointing out every little detail.

  7. By on November 10, 2011

    Yay for more book recommendations! We’ve really enjoyed illustrations by Nancy Tillman and Elena Kucharik.

  8. By beyond on November 10, 2011

    i love sophie blackall!

  9. By Karen on November 10, 2011

    Chris Van Allsburg is my favorite children’s illustrator. Especially the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I could lose my self in those illustrations for long, long periods of time!

  10. By Christy on November 10, 2011

    Lily’s book collection is growing all the time and my current favorite illustrator is Eric Carle.  Lily and I love how colorful each page is.

  11. By Jennifer W on November 11, 2011

    I really like the book Olivia which is written and illustrated by Ian Falconer.

  12. By Jennifer W on November 14, 2011

    My daughter has a book called “I’m Not” that I love. It’s illustrated by Pam Smallcomb.

  13. By on November 14, 2011

    My favorite illustrator?  Maurice Sendak.

  14. By on November 15, 2011

    Ok so Im not sure what the names are who illustrat these books are, and I dont have time to look them up right now but I knew if I didnt enter for this awesome giveaway righ tnow for my almost 12 month old that I’d never get back around to do it until it was to late—so may favorites are the person who illustrated-Beransteins Bears, Little critters and of course Eric Carl and there are SOO many more. Books are one of the things im super excited to share with my son!

  15. By balanced diet on May 28, 2014

    very nice blog about mom and child relationship. thanks for posting such a nice blog


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