Some kids are naturally drawn (pun!) to art. Other kids are not. I have two of the latter type. But I do not despair! With the advent of my “my kid hates art” series, a list of picture books to inspire artistic creativity seemed like the perfect accompaniment to my mission to get my son to enjoy the art process. These picture books about art are designed to get kids to think artistically, to see art in the everyday. I’ve also included biographies of artists so you can inspire your kids with real life amazing artists.
A great list to pair with the books below is 11 books to inspire little inventors and engineers. Or, take a peek at the index of all my book lists to find something to interest your child. (Note: affiliate links are included below.)
Picture Books about Art
Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet is the successor to the wildly popular Press Here. This time, kids learn about color mixing as they take actions like rubbing the colors, shaking and smooshing pages. A fun, interactive picture book that instructs kids at the end to go out and create their own art. (Note: I received a review copy of this book.)
Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman is a good choice for rowdy boys like mine who may prefer being physically active to sitting at the table with a box of crayons. A curious chick finds a pot of watercolor which leads to a bit of artistic chaos until an encounter with the water for rinsing brushes sets everything aright. Freedman’s books all break the “fourth wall” (as we say in the theater) that separates reader from illustrations, a conceit I quite adore.
Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates. A common theme in some of these books is the art taking on a life of its own. Dog takes a break from reading to do a little sketching. A doodleman he draws comes to life and the two of them draw together, their drawings then lead them on adventures.
The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman is one of my favorite metafictional books. A pencil draws a boy, who then commands the pencil to draw more and more objects and people until a fully realized environment is created. However, things go awry when the pencil draws an eraser, which turns out to have a mind of its own.
Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu. An oversized book that was a winner with both my 4 and 8 year old who started narrating the story to each other, I barely had to get involved! One day a girl and boy start a garden. The packet of seeds grows steadily into watermelons, but the hat they planted quickly grows into a magical vine that signals the beginning of a whimsical adventure. This was a winner in our home.
The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. Theodora’s Poppa moves into an apartment with a windy balcony. Together, Theodora and Poppa create their own garden using their imagination. A great book to show kids how it is possible to see beauty and art in bare spaces.
My Pen by Christopher Myers. Gorgeous black and white illustrations show how a simple pen can turn anything a child can imagine into art.
When a Line Bends . . . A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Green, illustrated by James Kaczman. Rhyming text takes kids on a journey demonstrating how a single line can transform into all kinds of shapes and objects. Got a ball of string? Cut off a piece and let your kids explore the concept on their own.
Chalk by Bill Thomson. Thomson’s incredibly detailed and realistic illustrations are the center point of this story about a group of kids who discover a bag of chalk that brings drawings to live. Kiddo gasped a knowing, “Ohhhh!” when the plot came to it’s clever conclusion.
The Dot, Ish and Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds. The “Creatrilogy” books are a best selling trio of books about the ability of small moments to transform into big creative endeavors. Each one encourages kids to look around them to find art in their own world.
Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is a good choice to inspire kids who are worried about their artwork being perfect and planned out. Here the non-perfect, the mistake, the accident is just the encouragement a young artist needs to create. The pop-up, lift-the-flap, interactive nature of the book gets kids thinking outside the box.
Art by Patrick McDonnell. Art the boy love to make art. In fact, he creates art with explosive energy, making dots, squiggles, splatters. He draws so much he collapses in an exhausted heap, waking up to find his mother has put all his art on the fridge.
Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty should engage any child who loves a bit of humorous whimsy. In his apartment, Jeremy draws a monster who turns out to be a bit demanding. He want more stuff drawn for him, such as a sandwich, a telephone, a checker board. Jeremy decides he’s had enough and draws him a bus ticket out of town.
Andrew Drew and Drew by Barney Saltzberg. Andrew’s pencil is a source of creative inspiration. As he draws, his creations change and pages unfold to reveal surprises. One page even includes a small easel with pages that kids can actually flip through. What I especially like about this book is that Andrew does not appear to plan out his drawing. He lets the pencil’s spirit “move him” (if you will allow me the cliche).
The Boy Who Drew Cats by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Aki Sogabe. The parents of a young boy decide he is not cut out for farming and send him away to train as a priest. Although the boy studies hard, what he most loves to do is draw pictures of cats, so the priest sends him away to become an artist. The priest gives him a snippet of advice which the boy does not understand, but when he comes to an abandoned temple, the advice and his penchant for drawing cats has unexpected but happy consequences.
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken. This book focuses on art, and how what a child might think is a mistake — a blob, a dribble — can actually turn into something wonderful if you use your imaginative powers and tinker with it in just the right way.
Picture Book Biographies of Famous Artists
The following titles are just a few of the picture book biographies of great artists. You can find many, many more on your library bookshelves. A friendly librarian will be happy to help you find more!
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe. An extraordinarily gorgeous book about a Brooklyn-born artist whose collage style brought him to the attention of the world in the late 20th Century.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Horace Pippin, who I’d never heard of before reading this picture book, was a self-taught painter. He was shot in the arm during WWI, but he worked steadily to learn how to use his arm again to create art.
Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. When people point to Pollock’s art and claim anyone could do that, I groan. Really? This picture book will inspire your children to look at the process that goes into art. It takes readers along on Pollock’s journey while creating a single work of art, “Number 1, 1950.”
Frida by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Ana Juan. A tight, poetic text describes Frida growing up, enduring loneliness, learning to paint and suffering through polio and a near-fatal bus accident. It all sounds rather depressing, but actually the book’s overall tone is inspiring, describing how Frida and her community found solace in her art, and emphasizing the uniqueness of her style. Winter’s book focuses primarily on Frida’s growth from a young girl to adulthood. Me, Frida by Amy Novesky and illustrated by David Diaz is a good companion read; it focuses on Frida’s live with her husband Diego Rivera.
Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sarah Green. Artistic inspiration doesn’t have to be about picking up a paintbrush! This well-written biography of one of America’s greatest photography will encourage kids to think about their camera in new ways. And why not let them snap a few picks with your camera phone next time you are out?
More books for creative kids:
- Picture books about the theater
- Books about perseverance
- Books about inventions and engineering for kids
- Baseball picture books