Picture Books that Teach Young Children about Art

“What is art but a way of seeing?” ~ Thomas Berger

As a follow up to the last blog post about introducing children to art, here is a collection of picture books that invite young children to explore different aspects of art.  These books address such areas as folk art, the works of great artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Post-Impressionism, Canadian art, visiting an art gallery, artistic expression and what to look for in art.  I hope these will become a part of your arts curriculum or simply add to children’s understanding and appreciation of art!

Ehlert, Lois.  Market Day: A Story Told with Folk Art. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 2000.

Market DayThis bright and vibrant book highlights numerous folk-art objects and textiles which were collected and photographed by the author.  As readers enjoy the rhyming story about a trip to the market they can search in the illustrations for a variety of interesting items such as papier-maché vegetables, wooden chickens, knitted balls, beaded hearts, cloth houses and tin stars, sun and moon.  Children will make discoveries about the kinds of folk art that comes from such places as Mexico, different regions of South America, the United States, Africa, India and China and can learn more about the art using the key provided at the back of the book.

Gogh, Vincent van.  Vincent’s Colors.  New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005.

This beautiful book provides a wonderful introduction to the masterpieces of Vincent vanVincent's Colors Gogh.  It includes some biographical information, descriptive details of sixteen of his paintings (including Sunflowers, The Sower, The Yellow House and The Starry Night), and a self portrait.  The text consists of simple rhyming lines that were taken from letters that Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo. The words draw our attention to details in each painting: “Leaves of silver turning to green, stars sparkling, greenish, yellow, white….” As readers take time to explore each painting they will become familiar with the bright colours and different subjects – people, nature, buildings – that were of such interest to this great Post-Impressionist artist.

Gutiérrez, Elisa. Picturescape. Vancouver: Simply Read Books, 2005.

PicturescapePicturescape is an imaginative, wordless picture books that invites readers to travel across Canada and become captivated by the works of prominent artists including Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson, Alex Colville and William Kurelek.  Using coloured pencils and cut paper, Gutiérrez creates an incredible adventure for a young boy visiting an art gallery where he can enter into the life of various paintings and truly become a part of the art.  He soars on the back of a bird, boards a fishing boat, rides a balloon across the prairies, rides a horse and swims with whales.  This book is a beautiful celebration of Canadian places, themes and images, captured by great Canadian artists.

Watt, Mélanie.  Augustine. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2006.

This is a really sweet story about a little penguin named Augustine, who must move awayAugustine from the South Pole.  As she describes her feelings about packing, travelling by plane, seeing her new home and preparing to go to a new school, readers see her feelings reflected in her drawings, inspired by such artists as Renoir, Magritte, Monet, Dali, Munch and Matisse. Watt’s acrylic and pencil illustrations truly capture a child-like interpretation of many great works of art. With the help of her toy penguin Picasso, and her drawing skills, Augustine soon makes new friends, who want to draw just like her!  This book is both a lovely story that speaks to a child’s feelings about moving, and an introduction to art. Watt’s story shows how art can help us express our feelings and allow us to become part of a community.

Zuffi, Stefano.  Art 1 2 3. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011.

Art 1 2 3This is a very unique counting book, which uses simple rhymes to encourage children to attend to special details about the featured paintings, sculptures and drawings.  The rhymes ask readers to consider questions such as who is in the picture, what they are doing, and the time of day.  Children will count from one to twelve as they search in the pictures for intriguing items.  This book provides an introduction to art that is challenging but fun, allowing readers to become acquainted with the work of such artists as Caravaggio, Gainsborough, Lichtenstein, Botticelli, Modrian, Friedrich and Moore.  It is a great launching point for a further exploration of other works by these artists.

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