There are hundreds of children’s books with an art-related theme. Which one is right for you? Here is a guide to the major categories, with links to some of the best books in each one.
Biographies of famous artists. If you want to learn facts about Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt or other famous painters there are dozens of books for both young and older readers. Often these books do not include reproductions of the artist’s paintings, rather they are illustrated with pictures in the style of the artist. Click here to see some of the best.
Books about art appreciation and art history. These are also focused on facts. They cover several artists and include reproductions of the original art. Most are for middle grade or older readers but some are written for younger children. Click here to see examples.
But wait-what about fun? Sometimes readers (like my scholarly dog) simply want “the facts” (for example, to research a class paper). That is what you get with the two categories above. But almost everyone enjoys a good story. Why stop with only the facts when you can make learning the facts more interesting? The next three categories combine accurate facts with fiction to engage readers who may think they don’t care about art and to entertain readers who already love fine art.
Middle grade mysteries or adventure stories involving the art world. These are good reads but vary in the amount of art information they contain. They usually have black and white illustrations related to the story; most do not show the art of the famous painter(s) they address. Unlike the next category, these books tend to be set in the real world. You can see some of the best by clicking here.
Story telling that teaches about painters and art appreciation. Like the category above, these books draw readers in. They often convey as much or more art education than found in the “mystery” and “biography” categories, above. Also, they are often set in an imaginary world. They convey accurate facts wrapped up in an engaging tale. They can have color or black and white illustrations. See them here.
Picture books about color, creativity and the art room at school. Want to inspire a child or yourself? These books are about making art yourself, not studying the famous painters. They convey factual information wrapped up in an engaging story. Click here to see some of the best.
Two special categories
Picture books about picture book artists. If you want to know more about the illustrators who make stories into picture books, click here.
Books that also address contemporary themes. Some of the books in each category do “double-duty” — they provide life lessons in the context of an introduction to fine art. Again, click here to see some of the best.
Finally, what about making art? The preceding categories focus on artists and art appreciation. If you are-or want to start-creating art, there are many how to books on drawing, crafts, and artistic techniques. See a few of them here.
© 2016 by Ted Macaluso.