A reference question on picturebooks about art

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!)

4 thoughts on “A reference question on picturebooks about art”

  1. Great list! Here are a few more!
    Barbara McClintock, The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle
    Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman, The Pencil
    Anthony Browne, Bear Hunt
    Deborah Freedman, Scribble
    Leo Lionni, Frederick

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  2. Aw man – SCRIBBLE. Totally forgot that one. As for the others, I gotta do me some ordering tomorrow! Thanks – if I borrowed your brain I would so be like “Dude, can’t handle it!”

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  3. This is great – most of these are new to me, and the Black Book sounds especially intriguing.
    There’s another Lionni book, Matthew’s Dream, that might be of interest too. And, while it’s not a storybook, the Museum ABCs book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art has long been a hit in my house.

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