We Heart Art: Picture Books about Art Appreciation

October 22nd, 2011 by Eliza Eliza

Last night we hosted a wonderful event, A Day in the Life of an Infant Toddler Center and a Day in a Preschool in Reggio Emilia presented by Amelia Gambetti and Lella Gandini. The Carle’s Art Studio is very much inspired by the philosophy of the early childhood centers of Reggio Emilia, Italy and each year The Carle coordinates Reggio Emilia styled programming (even including trips to Italy to observe and learn from their classrooms) for educators.

These early educators are some of my favorite customers in our Shop because they are always so excited and eager to discover new books for their classrooms and centers. They always have lots of questions, looking for classic as well as contemporary picture books that use themes or concepts they would like to explore with children. Yesterday, there were lots of requests for picture books that explore art appreciation for pre-schoolers and so I’ll share with you some of our recommendations.

There are just so many picture books about art, and some of my favorites fall into distinct categories:

CATEGORY 1: The Mentor
These books, especially, strike a note with art educators because they are books that focus on a teacher/mentor or friend giving confidence and permission to the main character to make art and to see things in their own unique way. Some of my favorites from this category:


The Dot and Ish by Peter Reyolds


The Art Lesson and The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle
Eric Carle’s newest book is a tribute to one of his own favorite artists, Franz Marc. Marc’s surrealist art gave Eric (and so his book’s main character) the freedom and inspiration to make art his own way.

CATEGORY 2: Art & the Imagination
These books stress that art has the power to bring imagination to life and in that way empowers the child characters in other aspects in their life. Favorites from this category include:

Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Lily Brown’s Paintings by Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis

CATEGORY 3: Art Concepts
There are so many wonderful books that touch on concepts of early art education, such as mixing colors and shapes. These are some of my favorites:

The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker

Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
Many of Lois Ehlert books, like this one, work really well in the classroom because students can get inspired to play in similar ways with colors and shapes, making them into animals and objects.

CATEGORY 4: The Many Faces of Art
These books celebrate the breadth and expanse of different types and forms of art. In my experience this often includes a lot of puns, especially with using the character’s name as “Art”. Some favorites:

Art & Max by David Wiesner

Art by Patrick McDonnell

Perfect Square by Michael Hall
I love the way that Michael Hall explores and plays with textures and collage in this colorful book.

I’m sure this list can go on and on, but I’d love to hear some of your favorite suggestions! What are your favorite picture books that stress an appreciation of art?


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One Response to “We Heart Art: Picture Books about Art Appreciation”

  1. Please forgive my shameless self-promotion here, but I’d like to add Dot, my first book (released August 30, 2011), to your great list. I hope that it will be useful to art and reading teachers, and enjoyed by the children they teach. The book uses a simple dot to illustrate opposite relationships in a humorous way. Thanks for checking it out sometime. (ISBN 0374318352, Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

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