By: Sandra Hutton, @ ArtImmersionStudio
I often get asked about my favourite art books for children. There are so many it is hard to narrow it down! I may spread this out into multiple blog posts. Before I introduce some of my favourites, let’s address the question of why books about art are important for kids. I have taught art students ranging from the very young to adults and I think that introducing children to themes linking art and story is very important for their creative development. Frankly, many picture books aimed at children, have valuable themes that artists of all ages would enjoy. But, getting kids thinking about art and the stories behind art and artists is a wonderful way for children to connect to the world of art EARLY, recognizing that artists from different time periods have stories that inspire. Additionally, there are some great books that help readers think about creativity in new ways and from different perspectives.
Here are 30 of my favourites–in no particular order! I have provided links for convenience. I am not an affiliate and these links are offered simply to share.
1. The Noisy Paintbox is a captivating children’s book by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, that explores the life of the renowned Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. The story follows young Vasya, whose world is transformed when he receives a gift—a small, noisy paintbox. Vasya discovers that the colours and shapes he creates on paper produce sounds that only he can hear. This unique gift ignites his passion for art, setting him on a path to become one of the pioneers of abstract art. The book beautifully captures Kandinsky’s journey of self-discovery and artistic exploration, immersing young readers in a world of creativity, imagination, and the joy of self-expression. The vibrant and expressive illustrations by Mary GrandPré enhance the book’s appeal, making it a delightful read for children. Young readers will be drawn to the book’s imaginative storytelling and the idea that art can be a way to express one’s feelings and experiences, fostering a sense of creativity and inspiration. The Noisy Paintbox is a wonderful introduction to the world of art and a testament to the power of following one’s passion.
2. and 3. The Dot and Ish are two delightful children’s books by Peter C. Reynolds, each conveying important messages about creativity, self-expression, and the power of embracing imperfection. In The Dot, the story revolves around a girl named Vashti who believes she can’t draw. Frustrated, her art teacher encourages her to simply make a mark, and Vashti begins with a small dot on a piece of paper. This small act of creativity leads to a journey of self-discovery as Vashti explores the limitless potential of her imagination and the joy of expressing herself through art. The book emphasizes the idea that anyone can be an artist and that taking that first step is often the hardest. It encourages young readers to embrace their creativity, overcome self-doubt, and see the beauty in simplicity.
In Ish, the story follows a young boy named Ramon who loves to draw but becomes disheartened when his older brother mocks his work for not being “real” or “perfect.” Ramon loses his confidence until he meets his little sister, who cherishes the drawings that he considers “ish.” Through her eyes, he learns to appreciate the beauty of art that may not be exact but conveys emotions, ideas, and individuality. Ish teaches young readers the valuable lesson that art doesn’t have to be perfect and that imperfection can be a source of inspiration. It encourages them to embrace their unique creative voices and appreciate the value of self-expression over rigid standards of perfection.
Both The Dot and Ish are important for young readers because they promote the idea that creativity knows no bounds and that art is a powerful means of self-expression. They instill the belief that making mistakes and embracing imperfections are essential parts of the creative process, fostering self-confidence and a sense of individuality. These messages are vital in encouraging young minds to explore their artistic potential and to take risks in their creative endeavours, ultimately nurturing a lifelong love for art and self-expression.
4. Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World is a book by Rachel Ignotofsky that showcases the lives and contributions of 50 remarkable female artists from different time periods, backgrounds, and artistic disciplines. The book provides a glimpse into the inspiring stories of artists who overcame gender bias and societal constraints to make significant impacts on the art world. Some of the notable artists featured in the book include Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, and many more. This book is essential for young artists for several reasons. First, it serves as a source of inspiration, demonstrating that women have played a crucial role in shaping the art world throughout history. It encourages young artists, particularly young girls, to pursue their artistic passions with confidence, knowing that they can make a lasting impact in the field. Additionally, Women in Art highlights the diversity of artistic expression, exposing young readers to a wide range of art forms and styles, encouraging them to explore and experiment with their own creativity. By sharing the stories of these fearless creatives, the book promotes gender equality and inclusivity in the art world, fostering a sense of empowerment and possibility for aspiring young artists.
5. Beautiful Shades of Brown is a children’s book written by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Felicia Marshall. This picture book celebrates the life and achievements of Laura Wheeler Waring, an African American artist known for her portraits of notable figures from the Harlem Renaissance. The story follows Laura’s journey as she overcomes societal challenges and racial discrimination to pursue her passion for art, ultimately becoming a respected painter. In the art classroom, Beautiful Shades of Brown can be used to accomplish several educational goals. It can inspire young artists by introducing them to the life of a lesser-known but influential artist, emphasizing the importance of representation in the art world. This book can serve as a springboard for classroom discussions on topics like diversity, perseverance, and the historical and cultural context of art. Students can also be encouraged to explore different art styles and techniques inspired by Laura Wheeler Waring’s work, fostering a deeper understanding of her artistic contributions. Additionally, the book can be incorporated into lessons on the Harlem Renaissance and the social and artistic movements of the time, providing a well-rounded art education experience.
6. Linnea in Monet’s Garden is written by Christina Björk with illustrations by Lena Anderson. The story follows a young girl named Linnea as she embarks on a journey to visit the enchanting garden of the famous French Impressionist artist, Claude Monet. Accompanied by her friend Mr. Bloom, Linnea explores the artist’s home in Giverny, France, where she discovers the beautiful landscapes and vibrant colors that inspired Monet’s iconic paintings, such as the water lilies, Japanese bridge, and his charming house. Through her adventures in Monet’s garden, Linnea learns about Impressionism, the artistic process, and the significance of nature and light in art. The book provides a vivid and engaging introduction to Monet’s life and work, making it an educational and inspiring read for young readers interested in art and nature.
7. Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity, written by Sarah Suzuki, and illustrated by Ellen Weinstein, introduces young readers to the life and work of the acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The book follows Kusama’s journey from her childhood in Japan, her move to New York City, and her development as an avant-garde artist known for her unique style of art. The illustrations in the book are an integral part of the narrative and complement the text wonderfully. Ellen Weinstein’s artwork captures the whimsical and imaginative essence of Kusama’s art, with bold colors, intricate patterns, and playful depictions of Kusama’s famous polka dots and pumpkins. These illustrations help young readers connect with Kusama’s art and creative process, making her work more accessible and engaging for children. Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity not only provides insight into Kusama’s life and artistic journey but also encourages young readers to explore their own creativity and appreciate the importance of expressing oneself through art. The book’s vibrant and visually stimulating illustrations enhance the storytelling and create an engaging experience for children while introducing them to the world of contemporary art and the significance of perseverance and self-expression.
8. In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage is a children’s book by Alan Schroeder, beautifully illustrated by JaeMe Bereal. It recounts the inspiring life and artistic journey of Augusta Savage, an influential African American sculptor during the Harlem Renaissance. The story follows Augusta’s determination to pursue her passion for sculpting in a time when opportunities for black artists were limited. Despite facing numerous challenges, she perseveres and becomes known for her remarkable works of art and her dedication to promoting African American artists. In Her Hands can be a valuable resource in the art classroom for several reasons. It introduces students to an often-overlooked but significant figure in the art world, Augusta Savage, encouraging discussions about diversity and representation in art history. The book also showcases the artistic process, from the initial inspiration to the creation of sculptures, making it a great tool for teaching about the techniques and creative thinking behind sculpture. Furthermore, the story can be used to explore broader themes such as perseverance, determination, and the power of art to advocate for social change. It can inspire young artists to overcome challenges and prejudices in their own artistic journeys, emphasizing the importance of self-expression and creativity.
9. Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas is written by Jeanne Walker Harvey, and beautifully illustrated by Loveis Wise. The book tells the remarkable story of Alma Thomas, an African American artist who became known for her vibrant and abstract paintings. Alma Thomas began her art career later in life and faced significant challenges, but her determination and unique approach to art led her to become a celebrated artist in the world of modern art.The book celebrates Alma Thomas’s journey of creativity and self-expression, highlighting her passion for color and her distinctive artistic style. It not only introduces young readers to Thomas’s life and work but also serves as an inspirational story about pursuing one’s artistic dreams and breaking through barriers. Ablaze With Color is a valuable resource for introducing young readers to the world of art and artists while emphasizing the importance of diversity and the enduring power of creativity. It showcases the impact of Alma Thomas’s unique artistic vision and how she contributed to the art world, making it a story of inspiration and empowerment for children interested in art and creativity.
10. My Hands Sing the Blues, written by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, tells the story of artist Romare Bearden, a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, through the eyes of a young boy. The young narrator describes how Bearden’s artwork portrays the rich history, vibrant culture, and emotions of the African American experience. Through vivid illustrations, readers are transported into Bearden’s world of art, collage, and storytelling. The book encourages young readers to explore the power of art and storytelling to express their own experiences and emotions, making it a beautiful introduction to the art and creativity of Romare Bearden.
11. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is a mesmerizing children’s book by Javaka Steptoe that provides a glimpse into the life and artistic journey of the iconic American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The book tells the story of Basquiat’s childhood, his passion for art, and his rise to fame as a graffiti artist and a pioneer of the Neo-expressionist art movement in New York City during the 1980s. Through vibrant and dynamic illustrations that mirror Basquiat’s own distinctive style, the book brings his artistic spirit to life. Radiant Child not only introduces young readers to Basquiat’s life and work but also conveys the importance of creativity, self-expression, and the belief in the transformative power of art. It serves as an inspiring and educational resource for children interested in art and the life of an influential artist.
12. Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad, explores the life and career of the pioneering Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. It delves into Schiaparelli’s journey from a young girl with a vivid imagination to her rise as a prominent figure in the world of fashion during the early 20th century. The book beautifully portrays her innovative and artistic approach to clothing design, including her collaboration with artists like Salvador Dalí, and her contributions to the fashion industry. Through enchanting illustrations and a compelling narrative, Bloom introduces young readers to Schiaparelli’s creativity and her impact on the world of fashion, celebrating her as a trailblazer who brought a sense of art and innovation to clothing design. It serves as an engaging and educational resource for children interested in fashion, art, and the life of a remarkable designer.
13. The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons is written by Natascha Biebow and illustrated by Steven Salerno. This book narrates the fascinating and colourful story of Edwin Binney, the inventor of Crayola crayons. It takes readers on a journey through history, from the invention of the first crayons to the development of the iconic Crayola brand. The book beautifully combines a historical account with vibrant illustrations that capture the creativity and ingenuity behind the creation of Crayola crayons. It introduces young readers to the concept of invention, creativity, and the impact of simple yet brilliant ideas. The Crayon Man is not just a story about crayons but a celebration of the power of innovation and the lasting joy that art and colour bring to people of all ages. It serves as an inspiring and educational resource for children interested in art, history, and the fascinating origins of a beloved childhood staple.
14. Frank Who Liked to Build: The Architecture of Frank Gehry , written by Diane C. Mullen and illustrated by Leanne Franson, introduces young readers to the life and work of the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. It highlights Gehry’s unconventional and imaginative approach to architecture, which has led to the creation of some of the most iconic and innovative buildings around the world.The book offers a playful and accessible account of Gehry’s journey, emphasizing his passion for creativity, unique design, and his ability to transform ordinary materials into extraordinary architectural wonders. It serves as an inspirational story for children, encouraging them to think creatively and pursue their own dreams, whether in architecture or any other creative field. Frank Who Liked to Build is an engaging and educational resource for young readers interested in architecture, art, and the extraordinary possibilities of design.
15. Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter , written by Kathy Whitehead and illustrated by Shane W. Evans, tells the inspiring story of Clementine Hunter, a self-taught African American folk artist from Louisiana. The book portrays her remarkable life and her journey as a sharecropper who discovered her passion for painting in her later years.Through vivid illustrations and engaging storytelling, Art From Her Heart takes young readers on a journey through Clementine Hunter’s art, depicting her vibrant and colourful depictions of everyday life, her family, and the world around her. The book celebrates her artistic vision and her contributions to the world of folk art, emphasizing the importance of creativity, self-expression, and the enduring power of art.
16. When Emily Carr Met Woo, written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Dean Griffiths, tells the charming and true story of a meeting between the renowned Canadian artist Emily Carr and a mischievous monkey named Woo. In this heartwarming and playful story, Emily Carr travels to Victoria, British Columbia, in search of new artistic inspiration and encounters Woo, a monkey belonging to the friendly Canadian painter and writer, Marius Barbeau. Emily and Woo form an unlikely but heartwarming bond that ultimately influences her artistic style.The book not only introduces young readers to the life and work of Emily Carr, a prominent figure in Canadian art, but it also highlights the importance of unexpected friendships and the inspiration that can come from unusual sources.
17. Through Georgia’s Eyes, written by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez and illustrated by Julie Paschkis, explores the life and artistic perspective of the renowned American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. The story takes young readers on a journey through Georgia’s life, from her childhood in the Wisconsin countryside to her influential career as a painter.The book uses vivid and imaginative illustrations to depict Georgia’s unique way of seeing the world, emphasizing her deep connection with nature, particularly the landscapes and flowers she painted. Through Georgia’s Eyes offers a glimpse into O’Keeffe’s creative process, her love for the natural world, and her ability to capture its beauty on canvas.This book serves as an engaging and educational resource for children, introducing them to the world of art, nature, and the extraordinary perspective of an iconic American artist. It encourages young readers to explore their own creativity and appreciate the beauty in the world around them.
18. Crafty Chloe is written and illustrated by Kelly DiPucchio. This book tells the story of Chloe, a creative and imaginative young girl who loves to make all sorts of crafts. When Chloe’s best friend, Emma, is having a birthday party, Chloe wants to create the perfect handmade gift, but she faces competition from a store-bought present. With her creative spirit and artistic talent, Chloe comes up with a crafty solution that showcases the power of creativity and personalized gifts. Crafty Chloe is a delightful story that celebrates the joys of crafting, creativity, and the importance of embracing one’s unique talents. The book encourages young readers to express themselves through art and to appreciate the value of handmade gifts. It’s a heartwarming and engaging tale that highlights the happiness that comes from both making and receiving handmade treasures.
19. What Color is a Kiss? is a charming children’s book written by Rocio Bonilla. This sweet and imaginative story explores the concept of colour and emotion through the lens of a child’s curiosity. As the young protagonist ponders the colours of various things, from the sky to a lemon, they question the colour of a kiss. The story gently reminds readers that a kiss doesn’t have a visible colour but is filled with love, warmth, and affection.The book is not only a playful exploration of colours but also a heartwarming reminder of the intangible, emotional aspects of life, such as love and connection, which cannot be confined to a specific colour. What Color is a Kiss? is an engaging and imaginative tale that helps children understand and appreciate the abstract nature of emotions and the significance of love and affection in their lives.
20. My Blue is Happy is a children’s book by Jessica Young, with illustrations by Catia Chien. The story revolves around a young girl who has a unique perspective on colours. While others may see blue as a sad or gloomy colour, the girl sees it as happy, much like how her grandfather’s beard is white, like the cream in her oatmeal, and the sound of the ocean. This charming story encourages readers to think about their own perceptions and to appreciate the different ways people see and experience the world. My Blue is Happy is a heartwarming and beautifully illustrated book that encourages children to embrace individuality and recognize the diverse perspectives and emotions attached to colours and the world around them.
21. The Artist and Me is a children’s book written by Shane Peacock and illustrated by Sophie Casson. Set in the late 19th century in Arles, France, the story follows a young boy named Jeanne, who is a neighbour of the famous artist Vincent van Gogh. Jeanne is critical of Van Gogh’s unusual and vibrant paintings, particularly his “The Sunflowers.”The book explores Jeanne’s initial reluctance and judgment towards Van Gogh’s art but gradually reveals how he comes to understand the beauty and significance of the artist’s work. Through his journey, young readers learn about the transformative power of art, the value of embracing different perspectives, and the importance of not rushing to judge what we don’t immediately understand. The Artist and Me is a thought-provoking and beautifully illustrated book that introduces children to the world of Vincent van Gogh and encourages them to appreciate the uniqueness and depth of art. It emphasizes the idea that art can touch the soul and inspire a change in how we perceive the world around us.
22. Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair is a tactile children’s book written by Jeffrey Karnes and illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov. The story takes a whimsical and imaginative approach to the famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci. In the book, the Mona Lisa is portrayed as a young girl who invites the reader on an adventurous journey through the world of art.The story encourages young readers to use their creativity and imagination to interact with famous works of art. It takes them on an engaging tour of various iconic paintings, inviting them to brush the hair of the Mona Lisa, tickle the feet of The Birth of Venus, and much more. The book fosters an appreciation for art and encourages children to explore the world of masterpieces with a playful and interactive spirit. Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair is an entertaining and educational book that combines art appreciation with interactive storytelling, making it an excellent resource for introducing young readers to the world of art in an engaging and imaginative way.
23. When Pigasso Met Mootisse , written and illustrated by Nina Laden is an imaginative story is a playful and humorous take on the friendship and artistic collaboration between two fictional characters inspired by the famous artists Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.The book portrays Pigasso, a pig with a talent for abstract art, and Mootisse, a bull known for his colorful and cheerful paintings. At first, the two artists find themselves in a rivalry over their differing artistic styles, much like Picasso and Matisse during their time. However, they eventually discover the beauty of combining their unique approaches, leading to the creation of a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. When Pigasso Met Mootisse is not only an entertaining story but also a whimsical introduction to the world of art, creativity, and the idea that collaboration and the blending of different styles can lead to remarkable artistic results. The book celebrates artistic diversity and the power of friendship, making it a fun and educational read for children interested in art and imagination.
24. Louise Loves Art is a charming children’s book written and illustrated by Kelly Light. The story follows a young girl named Louise, who is an aspiring artist with a vivid imagination. She adores creating art and sees inspiration all around her.However, Louise’s enthusiasm for art sometimes creates humorous and endearing misunderstandings with her little brother, who is not always thrilled with her creative projects. When Louise’s latest masterpiece goes missing, she learns a valuable lesson about the power of family and the bonds that connect them.The book is not just a celebration of art and creativity but also an exploration of the joys and challenges of sibling relationships. It emphasizes the idea that creativity can bring people together and that family is an important source of support and inspiration. Louise Loves Art is an engaging and heartwarming story for children that encourages them to embrace their creativity and appreciate the special connections they have with loved ones.
25. Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Loved Drawing, written by Kay A. Haring and illustrated by Robert Neubecker, tells the inspiring true story of the renowned American artist Keith Haring and his journey from a young boy with a passion for drawing to becoming a celebrated figure in the art world.The story portrays Haring’s boundless enthusiasm for art and his belief in the power of creativity to inspire and connect people. It emphasizes his early experiences as a young artist, his love for doodling, and his desire to make art accessible to everyone. The book serves as an engaging and educational resource for children, introducing them to the life and work of Keith Haring. It encourages young readers to embrace their artistic interests, celebrate their unique creative voices, and appreciate the transformative nature of art. It’s a story of passion, art, and the belief that creativity can change the world.
26. The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs is written by Fiona Robinson. It tells the inspiring true story of Anna Atkins, a 19th-century British botanist, and the creation of the first-ever book illustrated with photographs. The book explores Anna’s childhood love for the natural world and her fascination with botany and scientific illustration. She collaborated with her father, John George Children, to create a groundbreaking book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, which used a photographic printing process called cyanotype to capture the intricate details of seaweed and algae specimens. Anna’s work is celebrated in The Bluest of Blues, showcasing her pioneering contributions to both art and science. Through charming and informative illustrations, the book brings to life the beauty and significance of her work and emphasizes her remarkable achievements as a female scientist and artist in a male-dominated era. The book serves as an engaging and educational resource for children, introducing them to the worlds of botany, photography, and the enduring power of curiosity and innovation. It encourages young readers to appreciate the intersection of art and science and the importance of women’s contributions to both fields.
27. and 28. The Day the Crayons Quit and its sequel, The Day the Crayons Came Home, both written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, are delightful and imaginative children’s books that bring crayons to life and explore the themes of creativity, diversity, and friendship. In The Day the Crayons Quit, the story revolves around a box of crayons, each with its unique personality and complaint about how they are used by their young owner, Duncan. Red feels overworked, Black and White are in disagreement, Yellow and Orange are both claiming to be the true colour of the sun, and so on. Duncan must find a creative solution to make each crayon feel valued and appreciated. In The Day the Crayons Came Home, the crayons have even more humorous grievances and absurd adventures to share. Lost crayons, broken crayons, and crayons stuck in couches or under the car seat send postcards to Duncan, seeking rescue and reintegration. Both books are filled with witty, colourful illustrations and clever storytelling that capture the essence of childhood creativity and imagination. They teach young readers valuable lessons about the importance of listening, embracing diversity, and finding creative solutions to problems. The books are a celebration of the power of art, friendship, and the imaginative world of children.
29. Shades of People is written by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly, with vibrant and expressive photographs by Shelley Rotner. The book celebrates the diversity of human skin tones and explores the beauty of people’s varying shades. Shades of People takes young readers on a colourful journey, showcasing the range of skin colours, from the lightest to the darkest, with descriptive and lyrical text. The book emphasizes that there is a wide spectrum of skin tones and that each one is beautiful and unique. It encourages children to appreciate and celebrate the rich tapestry of humanity.Art teachers can find Shades of People to be a valuable resource in the classroom for several reasons. It can be used to introduce the concept of diversity in art and the importance of accurately representing skin tones in portraits and illustrations. The book’s vibrant photographs serve as a visual reference for students to observe and appreciate the variety of skin colours, making it easier for them to create art that reflects real-world diversity. Additionally, Shades of People can be a starting point for discussions about inclusivity, representation, and the significance of portraying people of all backgrounds in art. It promotes an understanding of the beauty of diversity, fostering empathy and respect among young artists. Art teachers can use this book as a tool to teach students about the value of inclusivity and the art of celebrating the differences that make each person unique.
30. Klimt and His Cat is a delightful children’s book written by Berenice Capatti and illustrated by Octavia Monaco. The story offers a charming and imaginative look at the life of the famous Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, framed through the perspective of his cat, Katze. The book portrays the close relationship between Klimt and his feline companion. It explores how Katze witnesses and is a part of Klimt’s creative process, as the artist works on some of his iconic paintings, including “The Kiss.” The book captures the artistic environment of Vienna during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and introduces young readers to the world of art. Klimt and His Cat is a heartwarming story that emphasizes the importance of inspiration, creativity, and the value of companionship in the artist’s life. It offers a playful and accessible way for children to learn about the life and work of Gustav Klimt and the magical world of art, seen through the eyes of a faithful feline friend.