How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird

Overview

A GIFT FOR EVERYONE

A child wakes up, puts up an easel, picks up a brush and paints—paints a perch, a tree, the warmth of the sun and the sound of the summer breeze, and eventually a bird comes and sings. This is both the most personal and the most universal of books from Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstin: a fable about art, wonder, and creativity that has a meaning and a message for every reader. Universal appeal and illustration rich in warmth, color and feeling make ...

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Overview

A GIFT FOR EVERYONE

A child wakes up, puts up an easel, picks up a brush and paints—paints a perch, a tree, the warmth of the sun and the sound of the summer breeze, and eventually a bird comes and sings. This is both the most personal and the most universal of books from Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstin: a fable about art, wonder, and creativity that has a meaning and a message for every reader. Universal appeal and illustration rich in warmth, color and feeling make this jewel of a picture book a lovely choice for the gift-giving season.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With irresistible wit, this makes its point that, with dedication, art and creativity are infinitely renewable."

Kirkus Reviews

 

"Whimsical."

School Library Journal

 

"This petite, elegant picture book, featuring Gerstein’s translation of a 1949 poem by French surrealist Prévert, delivers a mind-stretching allegory of artistic creation."

Booklist

Children's Literature
As Gerstein interprets Prévert’s imaginative free verse, it encourages a young boy to begin his portrait of the bird on his windowsill by painting a cage, something “useful and beautiful, but simple” with an open door. Then, the picture should be taken away from the city. There, the young painter must wait patiently for the bird to enter the cage. Then, the cage must be erased and the tree, sunshine, and a breeze must be added. More waiting for the bird to sing may be rewarded with beautiful music, a “good sign” that will mean it is time to sign the painting and take it home. If the bird leaves, he can paint another tomorrow. Gerstein’s deft tinted black ink drawings instill a youthful vitality to the visual sequence that begins several textless pages before the title page. Although there is little dramatic action, tension builds as we watch the little blue bird with the bright red breast gradually enter the cage. First, the air is filled with masses of butterflies and flowers. When the bird sings, a double page is flooded with undulating musical notes while the boy smiles. Including the original French poem might have added some interest for older readers. Note the textured bird on the jacket. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

K-Gr 3
The instructions of French poet Jacques Prévert on how to paint the portrait of a bird are expertly translated and perfectly illustrated. The opening pages wordlessly depict a boy being awakened by the singing of a small, blue bird on his windowsill. After he sets up his easel and canvas, he follows the poem's directives: "First paint a cage with an open door" and then, with his canvas, the boy trails the bird outside to the forest. The instructions continue: "Wait till the bird enters the cage. Then gently close the door with your brush. Then, erase the cage, one bar at a time . . . " adding a tree, leaves, sunshine, flowers, bees, and butterflies. If the bird begins to sing, sign your name in the corner of the picture and bring it home with you. The book concludes with wordless pages of the boy mounting his painting next to his bed and falling asleep. As the bird flies off the canvas and out the window, the poem closes with, "Tomorrow you can paint another one." Gerstein's animated, whimsical, entertaining illustrations delightfully complement the spare, simple text and help readers understand that the creation of a work of art takes patience, determination, and perseverance.
—Rachel KaminCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Gerstein sets the words of the French poet to pictures. Prevert's poem reads like a lighthearted manual for a young painter who wishes to paint an elusive bird. The boy follows instructions precisely-painting an inviting cage to be placed under a tree to await the bird. When the bird comes, the young artist is charged with erasing the cage and, in its place, painting a tree with a perfect branch upon which the bird can light and sing. At the end of the day, the boy, who has faithfully executed directions and exercised great patience, carries home his canvas, bird, tree and all, only to have the bird fly away during the night. The poet's advice: "Tomorrow you can paint another one." Gerstein's recognizable style seems at one with the lightness of Prevert's intended whimsy. A double-page spread drolly depicts artistic endurance as the boy waits through passing seasons for his bird to come. With irresistible wit, this makes its point that, with dedication, art and creativity are infinitely renewable. (Picture book/poetry. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596432154
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2007
  • Edition description: Translation
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.83 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacques Prevert (1900-1977) was a French poet and screenwriter.

 

Mordicai Gerstein is the author and illustrator of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, winner of the Caldecott Medal, and has had four books named New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year. Gerstein was born in Los Angeles in 1935. He remembers being inspired as a child by images of fine art, which his mother cut out of Life magazine, and by children’s books from the library: “I looked at Rembrandt and Superman, Matisse and Bugs Bunny, and began to make my own pictures.”

 

He attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and then got a job in an animated cartoon studio that sent him to New York, where he designed characters and thought up ideas for TV commercials. When a writer named Elizabeth Levy asked him to illustrate a humorous mystery story about two girls and a dog, his book career began, and soon he moved on to writing as well as illustrating. “I’m still surprised to be an author,” he says. “I wonder what I’ll write next?” Gerstein lives in Westhampton, Massachusetts.

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