Explore the BEST Picture books that teach about Art or Inspire Art Making for kids to use for art infused lessons in your classroom, to teach art history and about making art and the creative process to your art students, or to use for creating an art-themed section in your home library. This comprehensive list explores famous artists, artworks, and the art making process through fun and creative, easy-to read picture books. It will provide you with ideas and inspiration for creating art lessons and projects that you can pair with these amazing books to help you teach about art making in depth in your classroom.
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How-To Use Books in an Art Lesson:
Books are a lovely way to engage students in your art lesson while teaching about a concept, artist, or art movement. I love to use books as either a hook for my lesson or as part of the content or background knowledge I teach my students before we create.
Using Books as a Hook:
My preferred way is to bring the kids over to a central location in front of me. Think about a space in your classroom that can be your “carpet” time area, either by actually placing a carpet, using mats that can be stacked, or just having them gather to sit. If not, read and walk around their tables to engage them all, or use a document camera. I do all, but my biggest success is using a corner of my room to read (which, corners are typically dead space anyway.)
Then, like a lot of primary teachers do, read them the picture book or a part of your art history book or an article. After, you can record any thoughts, “something learned”, or wonders on a white board that is there, or on chart paper. This will help the students access deeper, more critical thinking.
After, explain that you will be creating art based on: the picture book, the artist, the movement or time in art history, etc. This way, the kids now have been pre-loaded with background knowledge on the topic and will be a bit more encouraged to create because THEY KNOW.
If you tell kids you’re going to make a Van Gogh inspired artwork, but you’ve only shown them pictures of his work or a Powerpoint slide, they tend to be less excited. Books connect with people differently; it makes it more personal. That being said, before you create, you SHOULD present lots of mediums about the topic to the child. After the story or article you read to them, then you can bring them to their tables and show a Powerpoint or YouTube video to access different learners. Or, if you’re fortunate to have access to technology or bring it to your room, you can have them research related topics on kid-safe websites.
If you haven’t tried using picture books this way, you really should. For example, I always read “Ish” by Peter H. Reynolds at the beginning of they year, and then we all create “Ish” inspired art as a way to get kids comfortable explore art and the creative process. They are SO EXCITED to do it after reading. And yes, I make an Ish Gallery too.
Let’s look at my recommended books!
I’m NOT Just a Scribble
“A story about kindness and inclusion.
Scribble, the book’s main character, never thought he was different until he met his first drawing. Then, After being left out because he didn’t look like everyone else. Scribble teaches the drawings how to accept each other for who they are. Which enables them to create amazing art.
This book not only has illustrations that any child can personally recognize but it also addresses inclusion without boundaries so that anyone can relate to it. Each book comes with 100 stickers so that children can create their very own Scribble. They will be able to learn different emotions (that were discussed in the book) as well as associate colors with feelings in a fun creative way.”
“When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart!
As a little girl tours and twirls through the halls of the art museum, she finds herself on an exciting adventure. Each piece of art evokes something new inside of her: silliness, curiosity, joy, and ultimately inspiration. When confronted with an empty white canvas, she is energized to create and express herself―which is the greatest feeling of all.
With exuberant illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds, The Museum playfully captures the many emotions experienced through the power of art, and each child’s unique creative process.”
Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire
“Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, and Brigette Barrager team up to tell the joyful and unique story of the trailblazing Disney artist Mary Blair.
Mary Blair lived her life in color: vivid, wild color.
From her imaginative childhood to her career as an illustrator, designer, and animator for Walt Disney Studios, Mary wouldn’t play by the rules. At a time when studios wanted to hire men and think in black and white, Mary painted twinkling emerald skies, peach giraffes with tangerine spots, and magenta horses that could fly.
She painted her world.”
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
“What good can a splash of color do in a community of gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine! Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, Maybe Something Beautiful reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big. Pick up a paintbrush and join the celebration!”
Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community
“A boy takes on a community art project in order to make his neighborhood more beautiful in this empowering and inspiring picture book by Susan Verde, stunningly illustrated by award-winning artist John Parra.
One creative boy.
One bare, abandoned wall.
One BIG idea.
There is a wall in Ángel’s neighborhood. Around it, the community bustles with life: music, dancing, laughing. Not the wall. It is bleak. One boy decides to change that. But he can’t do it alone.
Told in elegant verse by Susan Verde and vibrantly illustrated by John Parra, this inspiring picture book celebrates the power of art to tell a story and bring a community together.”
Mixed: A Colorful Story
“The reds, the yellows, and the blues all think they’re the best in this vibrant, thought-provoking picture book from Arree Chung, with a message of acceptance and unity.
In the beginning, there were three colors . . .
All special in their own ways, all living in harmony―until one day, a Red says “Reds are the best!” and starts a color kerfuffle. When the colors decide to separate, is there anything that can change their minds?
A Yellow, a Blue, and a never-before-seen color might just save the day in this inspiring book about color, tolerance, and embracing differences.”
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art
“Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist.
But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony! And as he grew older, he continued to hear brilliant colors singing and see vibrant sounds dancing. But was Vasya brave enough to put aside his proper still lifes and portraits and paint . . . music?
In this exuberant celebration of creativity, Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré tell the fascinating story of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the very first painters of abstract art. Throughout his life, Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds, and sounds as colors—and bold, groundbreaking works burst forth from his noisy paint box.”
“Step into the colorful world of Henri Matisse and his magnificent paper cutouts in this biography by acclaimed picture book creator Jeanette Winter.
In a small weaving town in France, a young boy named Henri-Emile Matisse drew pictures everywhere, and when he grew up, he moved to Paris and became a famous artist who created paintings that were adored around the world. But late in life a serious illness confined him to a wheelchair, and amazingly, it was from there that he created among his most beloved works—enormous and breathtaking paper cutouts.
Based on the life of Henri Matisse, this moving and inspirational picture book biography includes a note from the author, dynamic quotes from Matisse himself, and an illuminating look at a little-known part of a great artist’s creative process.”
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
“Handpicked by Amazon kids’ books editor, Seira Wilson, for Prime Book Box – a children’s subscription that inspires a love of reading.
Winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.”
Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky
“A gorgeous, lyrical picture-book biography of Vincent van Gogh by the Caldecott Honor team behind The Noisy Paint Box.
Vincent can’t sleep . . .
out, out, out he runs!
flying through the garden—marigold, geranium, blackberry, raspberry—
past the church with its tall steeple, down rolling hills and sandy paths meant for sheep,
He dives at last into the velvety, violet heath, snuggles under a blanket of sapphire sky,
and looks up, up, up . . . to visit with the stars.
Vincent van Gogh often found himself unable to sleep and wandered under starlit skies. Those nighttime experiences provided the inspiration for many of his paintings, including his most famous, The Starry Night. Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime—but he continued to pursue his unique vision, and ultimately became one of the most beloved artists of all time.
From the same team behind the Caldecott Honor Book The Noisy Paint Box, Vincent Can’t Sleep is a stunning book that offers insight into the true meaning of creativity and commitment.”
The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds
“The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds has turned into a sensation, inspiring kids and adults alike to create art and make a mark. Through the practice of trying and Growth Mindset, “The Dot” teaches us to let ourselves create and see where it takes us. The Dot has even lead to “Dot Day” where art teachers and teacher all encourage their students to create dots in creative ways.
“Art class is over, but Vashti is sitting glued to her chair in front of a blank piece of paper. The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw – she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. “There!” she says.”
This book is not only great for teaching about the creative process and experimenting in art, but also teaches how Growth Mindset is an essential part of the art making process. Want more information on how to teach Growth Mindset in an Art Classroom? Read my article!
“A spill. A smear. A smudge. A tear. When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful!
A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.
An award winning, best-selling, one-of-a-kind interactive book, Beautiful Oops! shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.”
This wonderful story by Diane Alber, is about teamwork and color mixing making this book perfect for your collection on books about art or your art classroom. This one is a great book to use when teaching the color wheel to your elementary students and if you’re showing how the primary colors are mixed to create secondary colors.
“Ever wonder how the colors GREEN and ORANGE came to be? It all started with a little teamwork and some perseverance! Join three primary paint splatters, RED, YELLOW, and BLUE as they discover why everything is better when you work together!
This story begins when Red, Yellow and Blue encounter a persistent problem and are unsure of how to solve it. They each try to solve it in their own way and it seems to make the problem worse. Instead of giving up, they embrace each other’s differences and learn how to work together and in process learn about about some NEW colors too!”
Mix it Up!
If you’re teaching about mixing colors to primary students, I highly recommend this book!
“Great for toddlers, preschoolers, and early readers to learn about combining colors in a fun and imaginative way.
A mess free way to learn about transforming colors and following directions: Accept Hervé Tullet’s irresistible invitation to mix it up in a dazzling adventure of whimsy and wonder. Follow the artist’s simple instructions and suddenly colors appear, mix, splatter, and vanish in a world powered only by the reader’s imagination. In Mix It Up! Tullet sets readers on an extraordinary interactive journey all within the printed page.
- The perfect book for young children to develop an understanding of colors
- Ideal as a fun and interactive read aloud book for families or small groups
- Known as the “Prince of Preschool,” the versatile Hervé Tullet has been an art director at various ad agencies, a magazine illustrator, and for the past 15 years, a creator of children’s books”
This story really breaths a fresh air of perspective into your classroom. I always read Ish (even multiple times) and have kids make “Ish” art works after reading it. It lets them see that they can create art at their skill level and that it can be in their style, through their lens of seeing the world and doesn’t need to be full of realism. It could be vase-ish, sun-ish. This book is freeing! If you are an art teacher, this is one of the books that should be on your shelf behind your desk. Better yet, on it.
“A creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right” in this gentle new fable from the creator of the award-winning picture book The Dot.
Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.
Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.”
Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors
Keesia and Henri Matisse have the same birthday—New Year’s Eve! That’s why she picks him for her artist report. She finds out that over his long career Matisse made paintings, sculpture, books, costumes, and her favorite—his cut-outs, or what Matisse called “drawing with scissors.” The report is filled with about 20 of Matisse’s masterpieces as well as artwork that Keesia has created in his “style” (cut-out leaves, drawings through windows, fauvist animals). As she follows Matisse through his life she discovers why he is considered one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color
“A vibrant picture book featuring an irrepressible new character—perfect for fans of The Dot and Beautiful Oops!—from acclaimed illustrator Julia Denos.
In a place where color ran wild, there lived a girl who was wilder still. Her name was Swatch, and color was her passion. From brave green to in-between gray to rumble-tumble pink . . . Swatch wanted to collect them all. But colors don’t always like to be tamed. . . .
This is an exuberant celebration of all the beauty and color that make up our lives.”
The Most Magnificent Thing
A little girl and her canine assistant set out to make the most magnificent thing. But after much hard work, the end result is not what the girl had in mind. Frustrated, she quits. Her assistant suggests a long walk, and as they walk, it slowly becomes clear what the girl needs to do to succeed. A charming story that will give kids the most magnificent thing: perspective!
Rudy and Claude Splash Into Art
Rudy is a curious mouse who wonders, “What is art?” Claude, his feathered friend, tries to teach him. Rudy works on a self-portrait, a still life, a landscape, found art, a sculpture—all with disastrous results! Then he tries to create an artistic masterpiece, but…SPLAT! Has Rudy finally become an artist? Dynamic duo Rudy and Claude bring big personalities to this basic introduction to art.
Children’s Book of Art: An Introduction to the World’s Most Amazing Paintings and Sculptures
“This engaging guide takes children on an international tour of the world’s greatest art, from the first daubs of paint in prehistoric caves to today’s performance art. It includes all of the important art movements, from Renaissance to Rococo, as well as the great painters from all these eras. However, the approach is to look at art as an international exchange of ideas, not a straight history of western art. The book includes art from all countries, from aboriginal art to totem poles.”
ABCs of Art (Sabrina Hahn’s Art & Concepts for Kids)
“Learn the alphabet through fine art!
Spark your child’s creativity and curiosity with this delightfully curated alphabet book featuring some of the world’s most iconic paintings.
In this collection, your child will discover artwork by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, and many others. Help them locate the earring in Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, teach them different colors while examining Monet’s Water Lilies, and count the pieces of fruit in Cezanne’s The Basket of Apples.“
This Little Artist: An Art History Primer
“Learn all about artists who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for creators-in-training!
Painting, shaping, making art.
With creative joy, hands, and heart.
Little artists have great big imaginations.
In this follow up to This Little President, This Little Explorer, This Little Trailblazer, and This Little Scientist now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering artists in history! Highlighting ten memorable artists who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this creativity primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.”
Download Free Art Worksheets for Kids
Click here to download free art worksheets that you can print to allow kids to explore art at home!
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