A patron emailed me looking for books to use in a class she is teaching called "Books and Art" for four and five year olds. Amazing! She was looking for picturebooks to use as read-alouds to inspire the chidlers' projects - specfically books about creating art or using colour.
In an ideal world, I would have taken five days to answer this and sent her an annotated list of 100 books. Then I would have gone home to read a new book by James Mashall In reality, I had about 20 minutes and I went home to eat some Pilsbury Easter cookies I got for 35% off. I thought it might be fun to share what I came up with.
Keep in mind that I was limited by what is in my library's collection (we're not super teensy, but we're not huge either. We serve about 33,000 people and are the only library in town). Because I was short on time, I relied on my own knowledge but discovered 2 or 3 of the titles while browsing - yay for serendipity! I also wanted to include some Canadian titles because I'm pretty gung-ho about promoting Canadian books. I know I'm probably missing a buncha titles, so please feel free to leave more suggestions in the Comments.
Also, sorry that the books aren't in any kind of order. They were originally organized according to what was in and what was on loan at my library. I also don't have the authors and illustrators listed (where applicable) because we catalogue our picturebooks by author. The annotations are the same ones I included in my response to the patron.
Picturebooks With an Art Theme for Reading Aloud to 4/5 Year Olds
The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau – John Agee
A classic story about an artist who paints animals..that come to life!
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More – Karen Beaumont
An artistic take on the song “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More.” A boy who gets in trouble for painting on the walls takes matters into his own hands and paints his whole body!
White is For Blueberry – George Shannon
A concept book that explores the not-so-obvious colours of familiar things – the black centre of a poppy, the green top of a turnip, and the purple hue of shadows on the snow.
I’m the Best Artist in the Ocean – Kevin Sherry
A big, bright, hilarious story about a giant squid who loves to paint.
My Many Colored Days – Dr. Seuss
A very sensitive offering from Seuss about the connotations of different colours.
The Party – Barbara Reid
While not about art, this book is noteworthy because the illustrations are done entirely in plasticine. Reid is internationally known for her work with plasticine and has many, many stellar books.
The Dot – Peter H. Reynolds
Vashti hates making art but learns that even a random dot of ink can bring inspiration.
Draw Me a Star – Eric Carle
This is essentially a creation story about an artist who draws the world – starting with a single star. There are directions at the end showing children how to draw the stars in the book.
Augustine – Melanie Watt
Augustine is a penguin who idolizes famous artists. When she moves to a new school, her art helps her overcome her shyness.
The Imaginary Garden – Andrew Larsen. Illustrations by Irene Luxbacher
This book actually includes painting lessons within the story. After a young girl’s grandfather has to leave his beautiful home garden to relocate to an apartment, the pair find an artistic solution by painting a garden on a giant canvas. The text might be a little long for a read-aloud for 4s and 5s, but it is really worth checking out.
Art and Max – David Wiesner
A perfect story for beginning artists with stunning, semi-surreal artwork about two reptilian friends.
Harold and the Purple Crayon – Crockett Johnson
A classic. Harold steps into his own drawings and has all sorts of adventures.
Dog’s Colourful Day – Emma Dodd
A simple, engaging story about a white dog who gets into a rainbow of messes after his daily walk. Any of Emma Dodd’s books are fantastic for this age group.
The Black Book of Colors – Menena Cottin
A completely one-of-a-kind book done all in black. Different colours are described with words and with textured pages. It gives very young children a sense of what it would be like to see the world without sight and to essentially “feel” different colours.
I got a very lovely thank-you email from the patron after she received the list saying how inspired she is now. Can't ask for anything more! (plus, 4/14 Canadian books ain't bad!)
Awhile ago, I posted in anticipation of Scholastic's new I Am Canada series. I had a few reservations. My feelings about the name remain (a bit beer commercially), but I'm won over by the prettiness.
The first two books are Hugh Brewster's Prisoner of Dieppe and Paul Yee's Blood and Iron. Both these authors are natural choices for these topics as they've already done their homework: Brewster's Dieppe: Canada's Darkest Days of World War II came out last year and no one should ever forget about Paul Yee's Tales From Gold Mountain and Ghost Train.
The I Am Canada website, as is the case with the Dear Canada site, is stellar. It is also imbued with a healthy amount of testosterone and perfectly reflects the books in all their navy blue glory. I'm really impressed with the cover design - it has enough in common with Dear Canada with the photo and the weathered paper, but also stands alone, too. These boys and girls sure look smart together, don't they?
It's interesting that the I Am Canada books seem available only in paperback (correct me if I'm wrong here). Perhaps because of the maxim that boys prefer paperbacks? If so, very interesting.
While I think boys might be reluctant to read the Dear Canada books (there's a picture of a chick on the front, plus the hardcovers have a ribbon for a bookmark), I can see gals partaking in I Am Canada.
Next up is to give these new boys on the block a read and see how they measure up. But with authors like Brewster and Yee on board, I suspect the final verdict will be... Shannon: 0 I Am Canada: 1
Scholastic's Dear Canada books are the ultimate reference desk crossover books. I've recommended them on the job both at the public library (for chidlers wanting some good historical fiction) and the academic library (for teachers looking for books to integrate into the curriculum). They're well-written, have teacher resources, and are very, very purdy. What's more, they have often been my "I'm stressed out and need something I know will be good to read in the bathtub" book of choice. My favourite one is A Prairie as Wide as The Sea: The Immigrant Diary of Ivy Weatherall by Sarah Ellis. I was born, had my awkward years, and did my undergraduate degree in Saskatchewan and worship at the alter of Sarah Ellis, so this isn't really a surprise.
The authoresses of the Dear Canada books are the best in the country, and I remember being tickled with glee when I heard a boy was being let into the all-girls club. Perry Nodelman joined the ladies in 2007 with Not a Nickel to Spare: The Great Depression Diary of Sally Cohen and the series chugged along being dependably awesome.
However, while Dear Canada works with both reference desks, it doesn't totally work with both genders as the main characters (not to mention all the authors except Nodelman) have been chicks. But the Canadian Children's Book Centre recently announced that there would be a new series, just for dudes called...drumroll...
I AM CANADA.
Okay. Here's what I think about that...
First: It really, really, really (really) sounds like a certain beer commercial. By "a certain beer commercial" I mean this beer commercial.
Second: Won't girls have the reaction of, "Hey, I'M Canada, too!" I kinda did. And I'm a girl.
Third: Why can't the new books with a boy focus just be incorporated under the already-existing Dear Canada series? Is there an assumption that boys might not be into the Dear Canada title because of its association with writing? I'm not saying that the association with writing will or won't turn boys off, but perhaps that was a consideration in deciding the name? Perhaps it was thought that the connotation had to be something more of "I am a man who stands on a mountain and wears beaver pelts!" as opposed to "I am a thoughtful, pensive citizen who favours written communication over killing a beaver with my bare hands?"
In any event, I can't wait to read them, see what they look like, and see how much boys love them. I'm super pumped to see John Wilson on the list of authors who will kick off the series. I met him during my time as Coordinator of the Canada Book Camp and he is a stand-up guy and a huge hit with the chidlers (especially when he busts out some WWII stories).