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August 29, 2019

Creative Critters: Books about art

Books about art

Discover 17 great reads about art, museums and creativity for little learners — recommended by the Brighter Readers Book Crew!

We asked members of our Brighter Readers Book Crew to share their favorite children’s books about art. Their recommendations share different artists, mediums and colorful adventures. These selections also showcase the many ways kids can express their ideas and feelings. Check our list out and share your favorite reads about art with us in the comments! 

Lisa Land is the mother of two awesome little boys! This is her pick:

Bread and Honey book cover
Bread and Honey
by Frank Asch, author and illustrator
Best for: one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, school age

“Ben the bear paints a picture of his mother at school. On the way home, his work is critiqued by his friends and he makes changes after each suggestion. The finished product is a real work of art! But what is most beautiful in this story is Mother Bear’s response to her child’s artwork.”

After you read: Make drawings together. Then, ask your child, “What do you feel when people suggest you make changes to your drawings?” or “How do you feel when other people have ideas about the art you make?

Mynda Cruz is a youth librarian at Tippecanoe County Public Library. These are her picks:

Let's Paint book cover
Let’s Paint
by Gabriel Alborozo, author
Best for: four-year-olds, five-year-olds, school age

“This book is about how you should just relax and paint. Not worry about making mistakes because there are no mistakes in painting. It also shows all the different ways a person might paint — with big swirls or great attention to detail. Most importantly, this book wants the reader to know that painting is fun.”

After you read: Make paintings together! If you don’t have paint at home, try using things you already have in your house. Squish beets, carrots and green peas, and mix them with water for a simple paint. Use the liquid after soaking black beans or black tea to make a thin paint. Mix dry spices like turmeric and paprika with water for great natural pigments too.

White Rabbit's Color Book book cover
White Rabbit’s Color Book
by Alan Baker, author
Best for: one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds

“This is a very simple book about a white rabbit having fun in three buckets of paint. It shows how a yellow rabbit sitting in a blue bucket will become a green rabbit. Little ones just enjoy the white rabbit changing colors but they are also learning about art.”

After you read: Make stamps from potatoes! Cut a potato in half. Then, draw a shape on the surface with a pencil or marker and cut around the shape. Pour different colors of paint on paper plates and begin stamping on paper. Wipe the potato stamp or wash it so that colors stamp clean. Encourage your child to really go to town and see what happens when you mix colors together!

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More book cover
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!
by Karen Beaumont, author and David Catrow, illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, school age

A dab of blue here, a splash of red there, a goopy smear of green . . . everywhere. To the tune of “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More,” one creative kid floods his world with color, painting first the walls, then the ceiling, then HIMSELF! Before this feisty artist is through, he’ll have painted his head, back, hands, legs, feet, and . . . Oh no — here comes Mama!

After you read: Try monochrome painting together. Buy a pack of child-safe acrylic paints and let your little one paint objects that you would otherwise not paint, like old knickknacks (think bells, artificial fruits, old toys, little statues or garden gnomes). After you paint your objects, move them around the house and ask your little one if the color changes. “Does the dark room make the blue banana look darker?” or “What happens when we put this red little car by the window?

Purple, Green and Yellow book cover
Purple, Green, and Yellow
by Robert Munsch, author and Hélène Desputeaux, illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, school age

“Oh, the variety of markers available to this young lady is just astounding. This is a fun one about all the best and latest markers that are brighter than bright or smell better than a lemon. But you should never color with the super-indelible-never-come-off-till-your-dead-and-maybe-even-later coloring markers… But then, uh-oh.”

After you read: Find different supplies from around the house, like pencils, crayons and different types of markers. Make lines and scribbles on paper and talk about what each material does and how they are different from one another. Are there things you can do with a pencil that you can’t do with a crayon? Have your little one explain what those differences are.

Kids can make images that are expressive, colorful and full of movement — just like the artists you see in galleries and museums — with process art.

Beth Byam is a part-time bookseller at Kids Ink and pre-school assistant at St. Joan of Arc. She’s also an enthusiastic reader and mother of two children.

Color Zoo book cover

Color Zoo
by Lois Ehlert, author and illustrator
Best for: infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds

A Prestel Publishing art book for the youngest of readers. This wordless book accompanies Max on a visit to an art museum. Painting, sculpture, mobiles… all of these art treasures he finds at the museum are also reflected in the world around him.

After you read: Make a shapes scavenger hunt. Make a list of various shapes: square, circle, rectangle, triangle, star. Now, see who can find the most objects with those shapes. “The couch is a big rectangle and the bowl of cereal is a circle. What else can you find?

What Will These Hands Make? Book cover
What Will These Hands Make?
by Nikki McClure, author
Best for: one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

This lyrical picture book follows a family through one day and muses in the possibilities that one day holds — from enjoying treats at the bakery, to admiring handmade goods from local artisan shops, to observing the new construction in town.

“These new titles feature bold paper cut illustrations with sparse text. The reader sees what people can craft by hand for others, and in doing so how we create a beautiful community.”

After you read: Ask, “What do you like making with your hands?” Make a list of things you both like doing: making cookies, braiding hair, drawing or building something with Legos. Then, go through your list together.

My Museum book cover
My Museum
by Joanne Liu, author
Best for: infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds

A young boy learns that art is all around us in this captivating picture book about a day at the museum. You may remember what it was like to be a child in a crowded art museum. It can be hard to see, let alone appreciate the art. And there can be so much else to look at! That’s the lesson of this ingeniously simple yet profound book about art. It is everywhere — from another visitor’s elaborate tattoos to the way the sun makes patterns of light on the floor.

“A Prestel Publishing art book for the youngest of readers. This wordless book accompanies Max on a visit to an art museum. Painting, sculpture, mobiles … all of these art treasures he finds at the museum are also reflected in the world around him.”

After you read: Ask, “If you could change anything about museums, what would you change?” and “If you were in charge of the next museum, what kind of museum would it be?

Kahlo's Koalas book cover

Kahlo’s Koalas
by Grace Helmer, author
Best for: infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

From Henri Matisse’s monkeys and Jackson Pollock’s poodles to Roy Lichtenstein’s llamas and Wassily Kandinsky’s kangaroos, this beautiful 1-10 counting book provides an imaginative learning experience that will delight adults and children alike.

“A simple counting book introduces children to ten famous artists and their signature styles. This book can prompt a lively discussion on why my panda bear might look different than your panda bear!”

After you read: Try your hand at drawing together in the different styles you learned about in the book!

Look for signs of learning at your child’s care.

Will your little Picasso be able to express themselves? Look at the walls to see what’s displayed. Does everything look the same, or is individuality encouraged? You want your child to be able to express themselves freely through their art. The classroom should include the tools of the trade — from crayons to paints to easels to art stations – to enable that expression. Read more…
One Patch of Blue book cover

One Patch of Blue
by Marthe Jocelyn, author
Best for: infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

One patch of denim escapes from a pair of pants and becomes a stained-glass window, an ice-cream truck, a Ferris wheel, a fish tank and many other square surprises in this delightful board.

One Yellow Ribbon book cover
One Yellow Ribbon
by Marthe Jocelyn, author
Best for: infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

One yellow ribbon unties itself from a child’s hair and transforms into a winter scarf, a farmer’s field and a lion’s mane, among many other magical things, in this delightful board book.

One Piece of String book cover
One Piece of String
by Marthe Jocelyn, author
Best for: infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

One piece of string comes untied from a parcel and changes into many things. It becomes a spider’s web, a ropy up-do, a layer of snow on a birdhouse roof, and other surprises.

“This is a trio of wordless board books which sharpen a child’s observational skills by showing how a patch of blue can change from a knee patch on a pair of jeans to a seat on a ferris wheel. A yellow ribbon can be a lion’s mane or an octopus tentacle. The graphic collage art is lovely to look at.”

After you read: Find a handful of items from around your house that resemble the items in the books. Brainstorm possibilities for what these items can be. Then, draw pictures or make 3D collages with crayons and your found objects.

Mandy Lotarski is a former teacher, and is now the assistant manager of the children’s and youth department at Carmel Clay Public Library. This is her pick:

I Spy Colors in Art book cover
I Spy Colors in Art
by Lucy Micklethwait, author
Best for: reading along with pre-school and pre-K students

I spy with my little eye . . . a yellow circle, an orange orange, two blue eyes staring right back at me!

The whole family will delight in exploring fine art through these fourteen glorious paintings, ranging from ancient to contemporary, their artists hailing from all around the globe. Each time you look at one of the colorful canvases in this book — or in a museum — you’re sure to discover another delightful and surprising detail.

“A wonderful concept book that explores color while introducing the reader to famous works of art!”

After you read: Visit your public library and each make a pile of art books together. Then, talk about why you picked those books and show each other your favorite images. Ask your little one to explain to you what they like in the art they picked.

Harold and the Purple Crayon book cover

Vicki Lehman is a professional development specialist at Child Care Answers. She has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and spent her first seven years out of college teaching in a pre-K classroom. Some of her favorite books are by Dr. Seuss. This is her pick:

Harold and the Purple Crayon
byCrockett Johnson, author and illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

One evening Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight. Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement. Harold and his trusty crayon travel through woods and across seas and past dragons before returning to bed, safe and sound. Full of funny twists and surprises, this charming story shows just how far your imagination can take you.

After you read: Make a long strip of different textures: cardboard, magazines, newspapers, printer paper, grocery bags, etc. Now, grab a purple crayon and explore how the line changes in each surface. Imagine what these surfaces would be if they were places, “the paper bag is the desert, the printer paper is a snowy field.”

With squirt painting, children use spray bottles or squirt soakers to create big, fun art.

Jennifer Delgadillo is a proud auntie and the content specialist for Early Learning Indiana. These are her picks:

The Art Lesson book cover
The Art Lesson
by Tomie dePaola
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

Tommy knows he wants to be an artist when he grows up. He can’t wait to get to school and have real art lessons. When Tommy gets to school and finds out that the art lessons are full of “rules”, he is surprised and dismayed. How the wise art teacher finds a way to give Tommy the freedom to create and stay within the “rules” makes a wonderfully perceptive picture book about growing up and keeping one’s individuality.

After you read: Discuss ways you express your individuality every day. Do you wear your hair a certain way? Do you like dressing in bright colors? Are you the one to make silly jokes during dinner? Grab some crayons and paper and draw the things that make you special.

My Name is Georgia book cover
My Name is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter
by Jeanette Winter, author and illustrator
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

“This is the story of how Georgia O’Keeffe dreamed of being an artist and then became an artist. The story shows little readers how an artist has a special way of seeing the world, by explaining how and why O’Keeffe painted flowers, deserts, bones and clouds. Even if you are not an artist, the story shows there are special ways to see the world, and anyone can appreciate them if they know how to look. “

After you read: Go to a museum and see a painting made by Georgia O’Keeffe. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art,  Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields and the Brauer Museum at Valparaiso University all have pieces in their collections. Not up for a trip? You can find beautiful examples online too. Or head outdoors and find something special to draw or paint.

Mouse Paint book cover
Mouse Paint
by Ellen Stoll Walsh, author and illustrator
Best for: babies, one-year-olds, two-year-olds

“This is the story of three little mice living an ordinary life that suddenly fall into red, yellow and blue paint. After doing a tiny mouse dances in different color puddles, they discover mixing their coat of paint with the puddles can make orange, green and purple colors. Then, the mice use their discovery to paint paper, leaving a white spot so they can hide from the cat. This is a super cute, small board book with very few words. You’ll be able to get through the whole story when reading with eager-page-turning little ones. BONUS: this book can be purchased in a bilingual (English / Spanish) format too. “

After you read: Do as the little mice! Find fun ways to mix colors: just mixing paint, decorating cookies and mixing different coloring into the icing, layering sheer materials or mixing natural dyes and sauces. Color is everywhere!

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