Art and Artists in Picture Books

Book Links August/September 2001 (vol. 11, no. 1)

by Mary Northrup

You can take a class to the museum, but can you bring a museum into the classroom? In a way, you can, with books that express the lively, colorful, timeless world of art. The titles featured here provide information on a variety of artists and their work. Monet and van Gogh are always popular, but many lesser-known artists appear in highly acclaimed biographies and picture books. Other books acquaint readers with a number of artists in one story. And these books are not just for art class. Connecting art to history will provide a rich field for interdisciplinary instruction. An excellent way to approach learning about prehistoric peoples is by studying their art, as with Kathryn Lasky's
First Painter. Similarly, the stories of individual artists' lives can shed light on the time in which they lived (see Deborah Kogan Ray's
Hokusai, for instance). Through fiction and nonfiction, young readers and listeners can glimpse a tiny bit of an art museum in their classroom. For the sheer beauty of art, as well as learning, introduce these books to your students.

Art Appreciation

Agee, Jon.
The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau. 1988. 32p. Farrar/Sunburst, paper, $4.95 (0-374-43582-0).

Preschool-Gr. 3. An artist enters a grand contest in Paris, with other great artists. But his paintings are different-they seem to come to life. A simple story with colorful, humorous illustrations.

Boehm, Arlene P.
Jack in Search of Art. 1998. 32p. Roberts Rinehart, $16.95 (1-57098-244-9); paper, $7.95 (1-57098-234-1).

Preschool-Gr. 3. Jack searches for a person called Art throughout the inside and outside of the museum. While there he sees many paintings and sculptures and learns that art is everywhere. The book includes list of works that are reproduced on the pages.

Clayton, Elaine.
Ella's Trip to the Museum. 1996. 32p. Crown, $14 (0-517-70080-8).

Preschool-Gr. 2. Ella participates in a field trip to a museum with her classmates. But only she seems to truly feel the art and participate in the dancing and flying occurring in the paintings. The illustrations fill the pages with movement and magic.

Igus, Toyomi.
Going Back Home: An Artist Returns to the South. Illus. by Michele Wood. 1996. 32p. Children's Book Press, $15.95 (0-89239-137-5).

Gr. 1-4. Imagining her family's history, artist Michele Wood depicts the people, homes, work, music, food, and celebrations of her African ancestors in the South. Wood relays her story through striking full-page illustrations, rich in color and pattern. Igus supplies a text interpretation of the artist's story.

Lionni, Leo.
Matthew's Dream. 1995. 32p. Knopf, paper, $5.99 (0-679-87318-X).

Preschool-Gr. 3. A young mouse goes to the museum with his class, where he is enthralled by the paintings. He explores the art with his friend Nicoletta. Inspired, he becomes a painter. Done in Lionni's familiar torn-paper and cut-out collage style, the illustrations are simple yet imaginative.

McPhail, David.
Drawing Lessons from a Bear. 2000. 32p. Little, Brown, $14.95 (0-316-56345-5).

Preschool-Gr. 3. Encouraged by his mother and his teacher and what he sees at a museum, a young bear discovers that he is an artist. He becomes famous, yet does not lose his essential self-a bear who lives in a den. An encouraging and inspirational story. Don't miss the drawings and helpful advice on the endpapers.

Seibold, J. Otto, and Vivian Walsh.
Going to the Getty: A Book about the Getty Center in Los Angeles. 1997. 32p. J. P. Getty Trust, $16.95 (0-89236-493-9).

Gr. 4-7. Seibold and Walsh introduce children to one of the country's newer museums in a picture book for older children that's filled with photos, architectural drawings, and reproductions of some of the museum's holdings. There is a lot going on here visually, so kids may only pick up some of what the Getty Center is about, but they're sure to find something that will intrigue them. A good book to prepare children for a trip to the Getty, or to expose students to a lesser-known museum.

Thomas, Abigail.
Pearl Paints. 1994. 32p. Holt, o.p.

K-Gr. 3. Though it's out of print, this title is a good choice for a general introduction to art history. Pearl receives art supplies for her birthday, and soon all she does is paint-even in her dreams. Drawings that represent Pearl's dreams mimic the work of famous artists, including Monet, O'Keeffe, and Chagall. The expressive, brightly colored drawings and Pearl's love for art will encourage children to work and think creatively.

Individual Artists

Brenner, Barbara.
The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West. Illus. by Olivier Dunrea. 1999. 48p. Houghton, $15 (0-395-85080-0).

K-Gr. 3. The early life of Benjamin West, a painter in colonial America, is told: his inspirations, his struggle to find art materials, and his feelings as his family comes to terms with his talent. At the end of the book are suggested sources on West and some brief biographical information.

Duggleby, John.
Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood. 1996. 64p. Chronicle, $15.95 (0-8118-1242-1).

Gr. 5-7. The artist of American Gothic comes to life in this biography. From his impoverished early life to his success in the art world, Wood's struggles and quirks are explored. Duggleby provides a good introduction to Wood and the regional style, illustrated lavishly with reproductions of his work, and. includes end material on how to draw in the style of Grant Wood.

Duggleby, John.
Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence. 1998. 64p. Chronicle, $16.95 (0-8118-2082-3).

Gr. 5-8. This famous African American painter grew up during the Harlem Renaissance, struggled through the Depression, and went on to become a world-famous painter and teacher. In addition to reproductions of his work, the book is illustrated with photos of Lawrence, his family, and other artists.

Gherman, Beverly.
Norman Rockwell: Storyteller with a Brush. 2000. 64p. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $19.95 (0-689-82001-1).

Gr. 4-8. Norman Rockwell, best known for his
Saturday Evening Post covers, comes alive in this biography filled with his illustrations, sketches, and family photos. Was his life really like a Norman Rockwell painting? Read and see.

Guarnieri, Paolo.
A Boy Named Giotto. Translated by Jonathan Galassi. Illus. by Bimba Landmann. 1999. 32p. Farrar, $17 (0-374-30931-0).

K-Gr. 4. The young shepherd boy Giotto finds the courage to approach the artist Cimabue, the Florentine painter generally associated with the transition away from the somewhat formalized Byzantine style. Inspired, he begins to paint wherever he can, even on rocks in the fields. The early life of a famous artist is told simply here, with striking illuminated illustrations.

Isom, Joan Shaddox.
The First Starry Night. 1998. 32p. Charlesbridge/Whispering Coyote, $15.95 (1-879085-96-8); paper, $6.95 (1-58089-027-X).

Gr. 1-4. Told from the point of view of a young boy, Jacques, who lives in the boarding house where Vincent van Gogh boards, this story details the famous painter's influence on Jacques. Vincent teaches Jacques about painting until the artist has to move; the landlady uses the paintings he leaves behind to patch the walls. The illustrations are painted in van Gogh's style. Older readers can learn about van Gogh's life in Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan's book
Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist (Delacorte, 2001).

Laden, Nina.
When Pigasso Met Mootisse. 1998. 40p. Chronicle, $15.95 (0-8118-1121-2).

K-Gr. 3. Laden uses the famous feud between these two painters to introduce children to their work. Puns, both verbal and visual, abound as Picasso is portrayed as a beret-wearing pig and Matisse as his bull-headed rival. Laden contrasts their artistic styles by mimicking them, painting sharp, black lines when talking about Picasso and bright, bold shapes when talking about Matisse. An afterword provides background on the artists' lives and their relationship.

Lasky, Kathryn.
First Painter. Illus. by Rocco Baviera. 2000. 36p. DK, $16.95 (0-7894-2578-5).

Preschool-Gr. 3. Mishoo, a prehistoric girl, helps her starving people by painting, which brings the rain. For those interested in Cro-Magnon cave paintings, this book is a real treat. The illustrator used watercolors, raw earth pigments, charcoal, bear grease, animal fur, and plaster in creating the art here. A moving, thrilling story.

Le Tord, Bijou.
A Blue Butterfly: A Story about Claude Monet. 1995. 32p. Doubleday, $16.95 (0-385-31102-8).

Preschool-Gr. 3. The painter Monet does his work in all places, in all weather, painting flowers, buildings, and boats. Each two-page spread contains very few words, which are set to one side, allowing the illustrations to take center stage. Employing the eight colors Monet used most often, Le Tord paints these illustrations in the impressionist master's style. For another look at this beloved impressionist painter, see Christina Bjork's
Linnea in Monet's Garden (Farrar, 1987).

Littlesugar, Amy.
A Portrait of Spotted Dee''s Grandfather. Illus. by Marlowe DeChristopher. 1997. 32p. Albert Whitman, $15.95 (0-8075-6622-5).

Gr. 2-4. A young Indian boy meets the Medicine Painter, George Catlin. Together with other members of his family, the boy convinces his grandfather to have his portrait painted. The book includes a foreword on the life of George Catlin and his travels among the tribes of the American West. DeChristopher's soft, gauzy illustrations are accompanied by one of Catlin's paintings at the front of the book.

Nikola-Lisa, W.
The Year with Grandma Moses. 2000. 32p. Holt, $20 (0-8050-6243-2).

Gr. 2-5, younger for reading aloud. Travel through the seasons with this most beloved folk artist. Each two-page spread includes an illustration by Grandma Moses and an excerpt from her autobiography. A good look at life in America in the early part of the twentieth century, this book also serves as a great introduction to this artist, who was not "discovered" until her late seventies. Included are an author's note on Grandma Moses, a bibliography, and a list of illustrations.

Ray, Deborah Kogan.
Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain. 2001. 40p. Farrar/Frances Foster, $18 (0-374-33263-0).

Gr. 2-5. Ray introduces Japanese artist Hokusai, who lived from 1760 to 1849 in what is now Tokyo. Though Hokusai's name is unlikely to be familiar, some children may recognize his famous painting,
The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The book tells of Hokusai's life, from being orphaned at six to his apprenticeship as a woodblock engraver to his extraordinarily prolific career as an artist (he produced more than 30,000 works of art). An attractive and informative book that will open the door to the study of non-Western art.

Stanley, Diane.
Leonardo da Vinci. 1996. 48p. HarperCollins, $16 (0-688-10437-1); paper, $6.95 (0-688-16155-3).

Gr. 2-5. The life of Leonardo from birth to death is told, enhanced with full-page illustrations and excerpts from his own drawings and sketches. The text covers his inventions and paintings, music and sculpture, and does not shy away from controversy. A postscript completes his story as it tells what happened to his notebooks. Also see the author's stunning
Michelangelo (HarperCollins, 2000).

Sweeney, Joan.
Bijou, Bonbon and Beau. Illus. by Leslie Wu. 1998. 26p. Chronicle, $12.95 (0-8118-1975-2).

Preschool-Gr. 2. Several stray cats are sheltered by the wardrobe mistress of a theater in Paris, where the artist Degas comes to sketch. The cats perform with the dancers, and children are invited to find their paw prints in one of his works. Illustrations are done in Degas' colors and style. Sweeney includes a note on the artist's life.

Waldman, Neil.
The Starry Night. 1999. 32p. Boyds Mills, $15.95 (1-56397-736-2).

K-Gr. 3. A young boy meets an artist named Vincent, admires his paintings, then accompanies him around New York City, showing him all its special places. Finally they arrive at the museum, where the boy sees
The Starry Night for the first time, and his friend disappears. A fantasy of imagination, full of color, with illustrations of New York City done in the style of van Gogh.

Winter, Jeanette.
My Name Is Georgia: A Portrait. 1998. 48p. Harcourt/Silver Whistle, $16 (0-15-201649-X).

Grades 2-4. This biography, told from the point of view of the artist Georgia O'Keeffe, shows that from an early age she went her own way. Emphasizing the natural world around her, whether in the Midwest, New York, or the Southwest, she painted what she saw. With deceptively simple yet evocative illustrations, and minimal text on each page, this offering makes an excellent read-aloud for younger readers or listeners.

A Collection of Artists

Hooper, Meredith.
Dogs' Night. Illus. by Mark Burgess and Allan Curless. 2000. 32p. Millbrook, $22.90 (0-7613-1824-0).

K-Gr. 4. A night of whimsy takes place at the museum as dogs from various paintings jump out of their frames, celebrate, and leap back into the wrong pictures! People begin to notice and the art museum becomes very popular. A treat for dog lovers and art lovers, with lots of action. Four famous paintings-with dogs-are shown in detail.

Hurd, Thacher.
Art Dog. 1996. 32p. HarperCollins, $14.95 (0-06-024424-0); HarperTrophy, paper, $6.95 (0-06-443489-3).

K-Gr. 2. Arthur leads two lives: one as a guard at the Dogopolis Museum of Art and one as a stealth painter. By day he admires the paintings at his museum and by night he paints on the sides of buildings. He becomes a hero when he foils an art heist. The story features lots of wordplay and colorful illustrations.

Kidd, Richard.
Almost Famous Daisy! 1996. 32p. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-80390-7).

Preschool-Gr. 3. A young girl takes a fantasy trip around the world, stopping in the places made famous by artists van Gogh, Monet, Chagall, Gauguin, and Pollock. She incorporates all their ideas into her work. With reproductions of the famous pieces and colorful illustrations of Daisy's travels, the story is full of color and movement. Watch for the cans of dog food that show up in each scene!

Krull, Kathleen.
Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (& What the Neighbors Thought). Illus. by Kathryn Hewitt. 1995. 96p. Harcourt, $20 (0-15-200103-4).

Gr. 3-7. Twenty artists' lives are explored in three- to five-page entries. Witty, humorous, and always interesting, the biographies are supplemented by notes at the end called "Artworks," which contain additional facts about the artists and their work. Includes a glossary of artistic terms.

Mayhew, James.
Katie and the Mona Lisa. 1999. 32p. Orchard, $15.95 (0-531-30177-X).

Preschool-Gr. 2. When Katie and her grandmother visit the museum, Katie is intrigued by her grandmother's favorite painting. She is invited into the piece, where Mona Lisa takes her on an adventure by entering other paintings. These artworks are delightfully shown "as is," with Katie and Mona Lisa inside. Katie gets to know masterpieces by Raphael, Botticelli, Carpaccio, and da Vinci. Includes notes on these painters of the Italian Renaissance. Katie has adventures with other painters in
Katie Meets the Impressionists (Orchard, 1999) and
Katie and the Sunflowers (Orchard, 2001).

Sortland, Bjorn.
Anna's Art Adventure. Illus. by Lars Elling. 1999. 32p. Lerner/Carolrhoda, $15.95 (1-57505-376-4).

Preschool-Gr. 3. Anna's search for a bathroom at the museum leads her through paintings and talks with artists. Illustrations are done in the style of the artists Rembrandt, Munch, Mondrian, van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, Chagall, and more. A clever fantasy with a feminist twist at the end.

Walker, Gladys.
Molly Meets Mona and Friends. Illus. by Denise Bennett Minnerly. 1997. 40p. Greene Bark, $17.95 (1-880851-25-3).

Preschool-Gr. 2. Molly visits the museum for inspiration. On each page she discovers a different artist, including Seurat, Degas, Picasso, Calder, and more. Some illustrations are reproductions, while others are "inspired by." A list of paintings and sculptures appears at the end.

Weitzman, Jacqueline Preiss.
You Can't Take a Balloon into the National Gallery. Illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser. 2000. 40p. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2303-2).

Preschool-Gr. 3. A little girl must leave her balloon outside the museum, where it escapes its knot and goes on an adventure through Washington, D.C. Everything that happens to the balloon is echoed in the familiar masterpieces the girl sees in the museum. A wordless story, full of humor, action, color and, of course, art. Included are a list of works reproduced from the National Gallery of Art and a list of the famous figures who appear in the illustrations. For a similar story at a different museum, see
You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum (Dial, 1998).

Wellington, Monica.
Squeaking of Art: The Mice Go to the Museum. 2000. 32p. Dutton, $15.99 (0-525-46165-5).

K-Gr. 3. The mice visit various galleries, each one devoted to a single theme-music and dance, children, portraits, still life, pets, and so on. Each mouse (identified by a color) comments on a picture. The text also includes questions that the reader can use for an interactive experience. The illustrations are done in the style of various artists; a key at the end of the story lists the artist and title of each work represented.

Young Artists

While reading about famous artists and their work is important for understanding and appreciating art, children may begin to view art as something only gifted adults can create. Books that show other children making art will inspire kids to tap into their own creativity.

Hucko, Bruce.
A Rainbow at Night: The World in Words and Pictures. Illus. by Navajo children. 1997. 48p. Chronicle, $14.95 (0-8118-1294-4).

Gr. 4-6. Bruce Hucko gave 23 Navajo children (ages 5-13) art instruction and encouraged them to express their feelings about their homes and families, their daily lives, and their culture. The images include an eight-year-old's drawing that shows Water Ox, a mythological creature who makes trees grow, and a 12-year-old's depiction of a pow-wow, and they show much about what is valued in the Navajo community.

Sola, Michele.
Angela Weaves a Dream: The Story of a Young Maya Artist. Photos by Jeffrey J. Foxx. 1997. 48p. Hyperion, $16.95 (0-7868-0073-9).

Gr. 4-6. Sola's book focuses on Angela, a Mayan girl who lives in a small village in Chiapas, Mexico. Color photographs show the process of carding, spinning, and dyeing wool to weave into clothes and decorative items. Information about this handicraft's place in Mayan culture, the "weaving saint," traditional prayers, maps, and a glossary help place Angela's work in context.

Zhensun, Zheng, and Alice Low.
A Young Painter: The Life and Paintings of Wang Yani-China's Extraordinary Young Artist. 1991. 80p. Scholastic, o.p.

Gr. 4-8. Wang Yani, now in her twenties, became famous as a child for her skillful paintings, which numbered more than 10, 000 at the time this book was published. This attractive book features clear photos of Yani's paintings and also of the artist at work. Yani's statement that she paints as a means of communication will help children see how they too can express their own feelings through art.

Magazine Connection

ChildArt, a magazine published quarterly by the International Child Art Foundation, seeks to increase awareness of public art made by children.
ChildArt publishes articles about public art projects around the world. Recent articles focused on endeavors such as the Float Project (founded by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly), which will display and ultimately launch hand-blown glass floats etched with thoughts and ideas submitted by children, as well as a mural created to promote cultural understanding between a group of Haitian and Texan children. You can visit the
ICAF's Web site for information on membership (which includes a subscription to
ChildArt), upcoming worldwide exhibitions, and available prints of artwork done by children.

Matching Poetry and Pictures

Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth Century Art. Edited by Jan Greenberg. 2001. 80p. Abrams, $19.95 (0-8109-1386-7).

Gr. 5-up. This attractive book pairs specially commissioned poems with twentieth-century works of art that served as each poet's inspiration. The poems are grouped thematically in four categories: some tell a story about the creation of the artwork, others give voice to something in the painting or sculpture itself, a third group describes the works metaphorically, and the fourth speaks to the artists and their techniques. The wide variety of poetic styles ensures that students will find something that appeals to them. A useful book for exploring the connections between different methods of artistic expression.

Words with Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art. Compiled by Belinda Rochelle. 48p. 2001. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-688-16415-3).

Gr. 4-10. In this anthology, paintings by well-known black artists are reproduced opposite a poem by a famous black author. Poems by Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen are featured, as are artworks by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, and Jacob Lawrence. Twenty poem-painting pairs quietly demonstrate the synergy of words and pictures, how both language and art can express an idea, a feeling, or a thought. The book also includes short notes on each poet and artist following the poetry and art. An excellent choice for expanding students' ideas about what constitutes poetry or art.

Mary Northrup is a reference librarian at Maple Woods Community College, Kansas City, Missouri, and is a freelance writer of books and articles for children, teachers, librarians, and writers. write the children's poems next to the drawings.