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.