Whether you have a budding artist in your home or just want to stir up your child’s artistic abilities, books can be a great way of encouraging children to be creative.
But don’t think that art books have to be only instructional; excellently-crafted picture books can be just as inspiring for young ones and the young at heart.
The Best Art Books for Kids
Check out this list of art books, including picture books, chapter books, and instructional books for the art-lover in every child:
Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown
This picture book, illustrated by John Parra, follows the childhood of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo as she spent time with her animal friends, all of which influenced her life and art. The book also uses many animals, including dogs, birds, monkeys, and a black cat, to symbolize important characteristics that epitomize the artist.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson
This book is about Linnea, a little girl who becomes friends with her neighbor, Mr. Bloom. Mr. Bloom teaches Linnea about Claude Monet, and eventually takes her on a trip to Paris where they visit Monet’s house, gardens, the Orangerie, and the Musée d’Orsay.
The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla
This early chapter book follows the story of a boy whose family moves to a new town. Feeling left out in school, he discovers an abandoned building where he draws detailed pictures using chalk.
My Museum by Joanne Liu
This picture book, illustrated by Joanna Liu, is about a young boy who visits a museum. He has trouble seeing through the taller crowds, but he learns to see art everywhere else, such as on another person’s tattoo, or the patterns that the light creates on the floor.
The book introduces young readers to some of the work of famous artists like Johannes Vermer, Henri Matisse, and Alexander Calder through subtle illustrations in the book.
Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends by David Stabler and Doogie Horner
Learn about the childhoods of some of history’s greatest artists, and see how they overcame their different problems.
For example, Jackson Pollock had to move constantly with his family, while Jean-Michel Basquiet had to overcome a life of poverty. Other artists included in this book are Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Beatrix Poter, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz, and Emily Carr.
Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter
This picture book tells the story of the life of Henri Matisse, featuring his childhood, his illness, and his adventures in creating colorful paper cutouts. The book also includes quotes direct from Matisse himself as well as a look into his process of creating things.
Artists and Their Pets: True Stories of Famous Artists and Their Animal Friends by Susie Hodge
This picture books features excellent illustrations by Violet Lemay, matching the fun writings of Susie Hodge. The book includes stories of Pablo Picasso and his pet white mouse, Salvador Dali and his pet ocelot, and Andy Warhol with his dachshunds.
Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew
The Katie books explore different artists, giving children a gentle introduction to the works of the greatest artists in history. This book follows Katie’s visit to an art museum where she steps into five paintings, including those by Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. The book also gives an overview of Post-Impressionism.
Tell Me a Picture by Quentin Blake
In this collection, the author shares about 26 of his personal favorites in art, featuring paintings from different time periods and styles. He then introduces children to the backstory of each artwork, making it a great introduction to art criticism.
Degas and the Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt
Laurence Anholt takes an interesting look at the life of famous sculptor Edgar Degas. In this book, a young girl named Marie wants to become a ballerina, but her family is too poor to send her to lessons. Instead, she works as an artist’s model to earn money, but ends up modeling for Edgar Degas.
Anholt excellently uses moments in the lives of famous artists when a child unexpectedly and memorably touches their hearts.
Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail by Laurence Anholt
Based on an event that actually happened, Anholt tells the story of the young girl Sylvette, who was one of the dreamiest and shyest girls among her friends. When Pablo Picasso sets up his art studio within the neighborhood, he finds Sylvette and wants her to become a model for his works—which eventually became more than 40 paintings in all.
Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
Benjamin West has the gift of painting animals, landscapes, and people in a very realistic way. But because his family is part of the deeply religious Quakers that forbid creating images, Benjamin needs to create his own painting supplies.
From Native Americans, he learns how to mix paints from natural sources, and then finds the hair on his pet cat Grimalkin’s tail to be the best material for his paintbrushes!
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies
This excellent picture book follows the life of John James Audubon who, as a boy, passionately loved the great outdoors. One of his favorite subjects was birds, and he ended up pioneering a foundational technique for understanding the creatures, before later becoming America’s most famous bird painter.
The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws
This is one of the best guides to drawing and journaling nature. Although the book is focused on nature drawing, the detailed instructions will help you become a more attentive, and therefore, a better artist.
The exercises will help strengthen your hand-eye coordination to create accurate reproductions of animals, plants, skies, landscapes, and more.
Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories by Michael Bird
Art historian Michael Bird collects 68 short stories in 336 pages, featuring the greatest artists in history, making it one of the most comprehensive introductions to art history for children.
The Best Children’s Art Books
Whether your child already loves art or not, exposing them to the great masterpieces of history at an early age is a great way to encourage their artistic sides.
Check out some of the books above, and also be intentional about appreciating art whenever you find it so your children can also appreciate the best works of all time.
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
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Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.