12 Books to Encourage Children to Look at Art

The books on this booklist introduce kids to art and artists in the comfort of their own homes. Several books include reproductions of great artwork (e.g. Vincent’s Colors, Feed Matisse’s FishI Spy: An Alphabet in Art). Others encourage kids to look closely at and enjoy art (e.g. The Shape Game, Stories, and Look! Look! Look!).

“Mom, this is the coolest part of the book. Things would land in Jackson Pollock’s paintings, and he would just leave them there, like ants and gnats and things.”

Andy Warhol’s Colors by Susan Goldman Rubin. An aesthetically pleasing introduction to colors. Warhol’s bold pictures will appeal to babies. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has also created some beautiful concept books that feature images from their collection. See for example Museum Colors and My First ABCs. Ages 0+

Feed Matisse’s Fish by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo. In this clever touch-and-feel book, kids are invited to rub the bellies of Matisse’s Goldfish, trace the glasses on the farmer in Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and take Frida Kahlo’s scarf in Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky. All three of my kids really enjoy this book. My 2-year-old appreciates the rhymes and repetition. Each page begins “Tic tock 8 O’clock. It’s time to…”. My 7-year-old enjoys looking at the artwork and reading about each piece in the appendix. Ages 1+

Vincent’s Colors by Vincent Van Gogh and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A simple, satisfying read that gently encourages kids to notice the colors in Van Gogh’s paintings. Each page includes one of Van Gogh’s paintings and a brief phrase with which Van Gogh described the painting in a letter to his brother. Ages 2+

I Spy: An Alphabet in Art by Lucy Micklethwait. This book is super fun to read with children who are just beginning to pick out the first sounds in words. For younger children, start with others in Lucy Micklethwait’s series (e.g. I Spy: Shapes in Art). Ages 4+

 

The Shape Game by Anthony Browne. A fantastic book to read before heading to the museum. The Shape Game is about a family who takes their first trip to the art museum. Everyone is initially apprehensive, but, once at the museum, enjoys imagining themselves in the paintings. Ages 4+

Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg, Sandra Jordan and Robert Andrew Parker. A fascinating introduction to Jackson Pollock’s personality and the method he used to create his drip paintings. Ages 4+

 

Frida by Jonah Winter and Ana Juan. A portrait of Frida Kahlo beautifully illustrated by Ana Juan. Ages 4+

 

Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez and Julie Paschkis. A biography if Georgia O’Keeffe that describes how she found inspiration from nature and from the New Mexico landscape. Ages 4+

 

Look! Look! Look! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace and Linda Friedlaender. In this engaging story, three mice discover a postcard with a painting of a lady on the front and enthusiastically look closely at the lines, colors and shapes in the painting. This book is fantastic! The mice dissect the painting by focusing on different parts of it, drawing the lines in the painting, recreating the painting with cutout paper shapes, etc. All-the-while the tone is upbeat and fun. Ages 4+

Stories by Philip Yenawine. I am a big fan of all of the books in this series by Philip Yenawine: Colors, Lines, Shapes, People, Places, and Stories. Each book features artwork from The Museum of Modern Art and does an excellent job of introducing kids to the use of color, lines, shapes and stories in art. Ages 5+

13 Artists Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel. An excellent introduction to thirteen artists for children. Each artist biography is kept brief and interesting so that it will appeal to young children. If your children are interested in learning about more artists, look for others in this series including 13 Women Artists Children Should Know and 13 American Artists Children Should Know. Ages 5+

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson. One of my favorite books ever. In Linnea in Monet’s Garden, a girl Linnea and her friend Mr. Bloom take a trip to France to visit Claude Monet’s garden. Linnea and Mr. Bloom have many great adventures, including picnicking by the River Ru, watching a sunrise on the River Seine, and exploring Monet’s garden. Along the way, Linnea learns about impressionism and Claude Monet. Linnea’s curiosity and enthusiasm are infectious. Ages 6+

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15 Responses to 12 Books to Encourage Children to Look at Art

  1. Great list you compiled. I’d like to add a book to your list that I authored and illustrated, The Primary Kids Meet Georges Seurat,” about Neo-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat.

    I’ve taught elementary level art for 10 years and have used many of the books you mentioned in my classroom. You should add “When Pigasso Met Mootisse” as well. The kids love it!

  2. Do North says:

    What a great collection of books. THanks.

  3. Thank you for this rich list…I am about to send it to my artist sister-in-law with two little ones! So helpful! a.

  4. Bill Kirk says:

    Glad I made it to your blog on the Comment list. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought specifically about having art books around the house to deliberately expose kids to art and artists. We have some art books and mostly reading books for all ages. But we haven’t been very systematic or methodical. Thanks for sharing that insight.

  5. Ritsumei says:

    There are several here that I’m going to have to look into. What a fun list.

    Your posts are included in the latest Classical Homeschooling Carnival – thank you!

  6. I had reserved A.Browne’s book from lib last week. Lovely selection of books.Thanks for linking up to Book Sharing Monday.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I love Linnea in Monet’s Garden. This is a super list. Many thanks.

    Have you read when Pigasso meets Mootisse? It’s a hoot!

  8. Kate Coombs says:

    I love Frida! Thanks for all the other titles. Many years ago, about the only children’s art title I knew of was something like Going for a Walk with a Line. Things have improved since then!

    • Amy says:

      Absolutely! My first introduction to art was at a museum. While museums are great, they can feel intimidating and make art appreciation seem like something that’s for adults. It has been really neat to share such wonderful books with the kids and watch them enjoy them and naturally get to know and gravitate towards certain artists. There were great books that didn’t make the list, which says something about the quality of art books available.

  9. unsal says:

    very nice books. Thanks a lot.

  10. Great list. My daughter really enjoyed Vincent’s Colors.

  11. I’ve enjoyed looking at art books with my kids; we’ve read 13 American Artists… although at the end we agreed that some of them we wouldn’t mind forgetting.

    We also have a car book that is full of paintings, and the pages are divided in thirds that can turn separately. So you can have a figure with feet from one painting, a body from another, and a head from a third, which is even more fun when you’ve seen the full picture and learned about the artists.

    • Amy says:

      What’s the name of the car book? I like that the 13 artists books introduce kids to a variety of artists. They let kids know that there is not one way to do art.

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