You’re Never Too Young to Appreciate (and Learn from) Art: Picture Books

In a recent blog post, I introduced a list of children’s books that incorporate basic education components, such as the alphabet, numbers, colors, and shapes, into famous works of art. In addition to the books that blend “A-B-C, 1-2-3” fundamentals with art concepts and genres, the library's collection offers a variety of picture books that can be used to introduce young children to the world of art. These picture books allow children to experience popular pieces of art and learn about artists' techniques, all while enjoying a lovely tale with beautiful illustrations. For example, James Mayhew incorporates Pointillism, a technique used by artists such as George Seurat, Paul Signac, and Camille Pissarro, into his engaging picture book, Katie’s Sunday Afternoon. David Wiesner’s Art & Max takes readers on a whirlwind art lesson on different art media and genres through the antics of aspiring artist, Max. Dende Maro: The Golden Prince by Sally Mallam is a beautiful story, highlighting art as a communication tool by using ancient African rock art for the book's illustrations. These picture books are great resources for young children to experience art concepts and to feed their imagination with wonderful stories. Check out theses titles (and so much more more) from our collection:

Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari.
Monsieur Degas likes to paint the students while they practice in ballet class--they've inspired many of his beautiful paintings. But one day he mistakenly leaves his bag of paints in the dance studio and instead takes a young ballerina's bag, which contains her new tutu for the evening's recital! The ballerina begins a great chase to find Degas before her big night. As she searches the streets of Paris, the ballerina encounters many other Impressionist painters who are in the process of painting some of their great works. Monet, Renoir, Caillebotte, and Cassatt help the ballerina until she is reunited, at last, with Degas. Featuring the original Impressionist paintings that inspired this picture book of historical fiction, along with an author's note about Impressionism, Chasing Degas will delight young lovers of art and ballet.

Dende Maro: The Golden Prince by Sally Mallam.
Images and carvings created in Africa over a period of thousands of years provide the source for the illustrations and inspired the text of a stunning new children's book by California artist Sally Mallam. Mallam adapted the illustrations for Dende Maro: The Golden Prince from prehistoric rock art of Africa, which inspired the story, a creation myth that will delight, inspire and enlighten people of all ages. The result is a work that is truly breathtaking, both visually and textually. Dende Maro weaves words and images to tell a beautiful tale about how human beings came to learn and develop their arts, language and mathematics, as well as their ability to settle all over the world and remake it in the process. Simply put, it's a story about the journey that made us human.

Katie and the Mona Lisa by James Mayhew.
Katie and her grandmother are off to visit the museum again, and this time Katie steps into the Mona Lisa painting to find out what makes her smile. Mona Lisa, it turns out, no longer feels happy because she is lonely, so Katie takes her from painting to painting to try to bring back her smile. They explore several Renaissance masterpieces, and soon the museum is in a muddle. In the end, Katie helps the Mona Lisa find her smile.

Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson. D.B.
Johnson writes and illustrates the story of famous surrealist painter Rene Magritte and his very mysterious (and mischievous!) hat. While the art reflects some of Magritte's own work, the text sets readers on a fun and accessible path to learning about the simpler concepts behind Mr. Magritte's work. This delightful picture book captures the playfulness and the wonderment of surrealist art. Four transparent pages add yet another level of surrealism to the illustrations as pictures can be altered with the turn of a page.

Mimi’s Dada Catifesto by Shelley Jackson.
Mimi is an artistic cat in need of a human. But for a cat like her--with the soul of an artist--only an artist will do. Mr. Dada is a human who believes that art can be anything, and that anything can be art. And for a human like him--with the soul of a Dadaist--only an artistic pet will do. Sometimes, though, it takes awhile for humans to see what's right in front of them all along. So it is a good thing that Mimi is loud and silly and surprising and bold. Mimi is a Dada cat, through and through. This charming story about staying true to yourself sparkles with playful prose and stunning mixed-media illustrations while introducing readers to the Dadaist art movement. Includes an author's note, a list of books and websites, and an index.

- Anna V.


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