Flett, Julie. Birdsong. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Kids/Greystone Books, 2019.
A young Cree girl moves to a new home in the countryside where she makes a new friend, an elderly woman who shares her love of art. Passing through the seasons of the year, this wistful picture book is filled with quiet love. It can take its place along with Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney as a story for readers who appreciate the power of creativity. [Art; Friendship; Moving, Household; Seasons]
Yang, James. A Boy Named Isamu. New York, New York: Viking, 2021.
Do you enjoy observing the world around you? Do you like wondering about what you see? Are you ever alone but not lonely because you are busy thinking? Isamu is a boy whose imagination can fill an entire day in this elegant picture book inspired by the life of the artist Isamu Noguchi. Photographs and an author’s note at the end tell more about the Japanese American sculptor and landscape designer born in 1904. Recommended for children who are full of their own questions about the world.
Yolen, Jane and J. Patrick Lewis. Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers: The Life of Marc Chagall in Verse. Mankato, MN: Creative Paperbacks, 2013.
Imaginative poems and explanatory paragraphs accompany illustrations of the artist’s works.
Markel, Michelle. Dreamer from the Village: the Story of Marc Chagall. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2005.
Greenfield, Howard. Marc Chagall. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1990.
“Examines the life and work of the painter whose Russian Jewish background did not prevent him from making an international search for his own ways of expression.” – WAFMS. Recommended for readers twelve-years-old and up.
Hong, Chen Jiang. Mao and Me. Enchanted Lion Books, 2008.
Writer and artist Chen Jiang Hong tells the story of his Chinese childhood during the 1960s. The finely detailed pen-and-ink and paint illustrations add emotional power to a quiet, understated memoir of the upheaval created by the Cultural Revolution.
Levinson, Cynthia. The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021.
Ben’s first memory was of drawing. At home, in his little Lithuanian village, he longed to draw everything he could see. But he also cared about justice. After his father escaped from imprisonment by Czar Nicholas II, the family moved to America in 1906, where Ben continued to draw pictures. By the time he died in 1969, he had become known as “the people’s painter,” an artist who drew attention to injustices in society. This sophisticated picture book – with full-page illustrations by Evan Turk and a lengthy afterward with additional information – is highly recommended for readers 9 years old and up.
P.S. References to people and events in American history may be unfamiliar to some readers, so this story would be ideal as a read-aloud and discussion.
P.P.S. I’m partial to picture book biographies. They let me learn about someone by reading a short story that gets to the heart of someone’s character. There are so many books to read and so many topics to learn about that I don’t always have time to read long books. Picture books can be just right, even for adults.
Leung, Julie. Paper Son : the Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019.
In 1919, a nine-year-old boy left his home in China to move to America with his father. Every night on the long voyage across the ocean, he memorized the answers he would need to correctly answer the questions sure to be asked by immigration officials. Years later, after studying art in California, he became one of the animators who helped create Disney’s famous film, Bambi. This beautiful picture book – accompanied by photographs and historical information – is highly recommended for readers 8 years old and up.
Rosenstock, Barb. The Noisy Paint Box: the Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Marcus, Leonard S. A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and their Paths to the Caldecott Medal. New York: Walker & Co., 2008.
Profiles six Caldecott award winning books and their authors, including Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings,” Marcia Brown’s “Cinderella,” Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” William Steig’s “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,” Chris Van Allsburg’s “Jumanji,” and David Wiesner’s “Tuesday.” – CIP.
Le Tord, Bijou. A Bird or Two: a Story about Henri Matisse. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Parker, Marjorie Blain. Colorful dreamer : the story of artist Henri Matisse. New York: Dial Books For Young Readers, 2012.
Verplanke, Klaas. Magritte’s Apple. New York: The Museum Of Modern Art, 2016.
Each artist has a unique vision of the world. René Magritte’s vision was a fantastical world of floating boulders and ships made of water. This gentle picture book humorously introduces readers to Magritte’s surrealist style. The full-page illustrations inspire wonder and encourage reflection. The historical notes at the end provide background information. Useful as an introduction to surrealism or a discussion on creativity.
Waldron, Ann. Who Was Paul Monet? New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 2009.
“Claude Monet is considered one of the most influential artists of all time. He is a founder of the French Impressionist art movement, and today his paintings sell for millions of dollars. While Monet was alive, however, his work was often criticized and he struggled financially.” – WAFMS. An easy-to-read biography for readers 10-years-old and up.
Peet, Bill. Bill Peet: An Autobiography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
Bryant, Jennifer. A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
Croll, Carolyn. Redoute :the Man who Painted Flowers. New York: Putnam, 1996.
A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators. New York: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2016.
Artists pay tribute to Beatrix Potter in this celebration of her stories. Tomie de Paolo, Peter H. Reynolds, Rosemary Wells, David Wiesner and 28 more illustrators tell how the famous stories influenced them and share their own unique illustrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary in 2016.
The letters will intrigue older readers who fondly remember the stories from their own childhood. Both the letters and illustrations are highly recommended for teacher-librarians and classroom teachers to use as part of a unit on styles of illustration. [Animals in art; Authors; Illustrators; Beatrix Potter]
Raczka, Bob. Art Is… Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 2003.
“Rhyming text and photographs show that art is much more than just what can be hung on a wall or set on a pedestal.” – CIP. Portrays 26 famous works of art. Recommended as a read-aloud for readers 8-years-old and up.
Raczka, Bob. Artful Reading. Minneapolis, Minn.: Millbrook Press, 2008.
Twenty-three famous paintings depicting books are portrayed in the extraordinary picture book for all ages. Artists include Cezanne, Degas, Durer, Hopper, Picasso, Renoir, and Van Gogh.
Raczka, Bob. Here’s Looking at Me: How Artists See Themselves. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2006.
“Handsome reproductions of sixteen famous paintings, set against complimentary backgrounds, reflect their creators’ unique viewpoints, while a gentle rhyming text comments on the masterpieces.” – WAFMS.
Wenzel, Angela. 13 Art Mysteries Children Should Know. Munich: Prestel, 2011.
Who invented oil painting? Why does the Mona Lisa have a smile on her face? What did Jesus look like? These questions and 10 more are all answered in this 45-page book filled with colour illustrations. A time line on each page adds historical context. Recommended for art lovers 11 years old and up.
PICTURE BOOK STORIES
Haseley, Dennis. Twenty Heartbeats. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2008.
We are often so sure of our thoughts. So sure of our beliefs. Sometimes, though, we are so wrong that when we discover our error, we can scarcely breathe. That abrupt enlightenment is at the heart of this picture book illustrated by the inimitable Ed Young.
A wealthy man hires an artist to paint a picture of his favourite horse. Years pass. The painting does not arrive. Finally, in rage, the man goes to the artist. Where is the painting? What has taken so long?
This elegant reflective story is recommended for readers and listeners six years old and up. You’ll smile and listen differently afterwards.
(Note to aspiring writers and illustrators: Notice the feeling at the end of the story: the sense of being pulled up to a sudden stop. Look at the last illustration: notice the posture of the horse. Then think about the power of illustrations to do more than show the events of a story.)
Cottrell Boyce, Frank. Framed. London : Macmillan Children’s, 2006, c2005.
“Dylan and his sisters have some ideas about how to make Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel more profitable, but it is not until some strange men with valuable paintings arrive in town and their father disappears that they consider turning to crime.” – AR. [Art; Automobiles; Business enterprises; Eccentrics and eccentricities; Family life; Wales]
Ellis, Deborah. Jackal in the Garden: An Encounter with Bizhad. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2006.
“Born deformed, Anibus is considered cursed and is left in the desert to die, but after being rescued and raised in secret, she leads a nomadic life, finding acceptance with a colony of artists which includes Kamal al-Din Bihzad, the most famous master of Persian painting.” – CIP. [Afghanistan; Artists; Nomads; People with disabilities; Runaways]
Henkes, Kevin. The Birthday Room. New York: HarperTrophy, 2001, c1999.
“When twelve-year-old Ben visits his uncle in Oregon, he feels caught in the strained relationship between his mother and her brother while he also begins to accept himself as an artist.” – OhioLINK [Artists; Mothers and sons; Oregon; Secrets; Uncles]
Kongisburg, E.L. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. New York : Dell, 1973, c1967.
“Claudia and her younger brother run away from hom and end up hiding out in a museum where they discovers a mystery connected to the famous artist, Michelangelo.” – WAFMS. The 1968 Newbery Medal winner. [Artists; Brothers and sisters; Michelangelo; Museums; New York City; Runaways]
Lisle, Janet Taylor. The Art of Keeping Cool. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000.
“In 1942, Robert and his cousin Elliot uncover long-hidden family secrets while staying in their grandparents’ Rhode Island town, where they also become involved with a German artist who is suspected of being a spy.” – CIP. [Artists; Cousins; Family life; Grandparents; WW 2]
Lowry, Lois. Gathering Blue. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
“Lame and suddenly orphaned, Kira is mysteriously removed from her squalid village to live in the palatial Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her gifts as a weaver to do the bidding of the all-powerful Guardians.” – CIP A companion to the Newbery Award Winner ‘The Giver’. [Artists; Orphans; Physically handicapped; Science fiction]
Mack, Tracy. Drawing Lessons. New York: Scholastic Press, 2000.
“Twelve-year-old Rory begins to lose the passion for making art that she shares with her father after she finds him kissing his female model and fears for the safety of her parents’ marriage.” – CIP. [Artists; Divorce; Fathers and daughters]
Meyer, Carolyn. Marie, Dancing. Orlando, FL: Harcourt 2005.
“A fictional autobiography of Marie van Goethem, the impoverished student from the Paris Opera ballet school who became the model for Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture, ‘The Little Dancer.'” – WAFMS. [Artists; Ballet; France; Historical fiction; Poverty; Young adult fiction]
Patterson, James. Middle School, Get Me Out of Here! New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2012.
“After surviving sixth grade, Rafe expects seventh grade to be a fun zone because he has been accepted to art school in the big city, but when he discovers it is more competitive than he expected, he sets out to turn his boring life into the inspiration for a work of art.” – WAFMS. [Art students; Behaviour; Family problems; Schools]
Reiss, Kathryn. Blackthorn Winter. Orlando: Harcourt, 2007, c2006.
“An idyllic seaside artists’ colony in England is the scene of murder, and fifteen-year-old American-born Juliana Martin-Drake attempts to solve the crime while unraveling the mystery of her own past.” – CIP. An entertaining mystery for readers 12 to 16 years old. [Adoption; Artists; Dating (Social customs); England; Family life]
Schmidt, Gary D. Okay for Now. Clarion Books, 2011.
Fourteen-year-old Doug has just moved to a small town in New York State. He has a mean older brother and an abusive father. He can’t read and he has no friends. But slowly he makes friends with a classmate, with his teachers and with a librarian who teaches him how to draw. And after his oldest brother comes back from Vietnam, life starts to change at home, too. [Family life; Fathers and sons; New York (State); Schools; Friendship; Drawing; Violence; Child abuse; Audubon, John James; Theater; Brothers; Vietnam conflict, 1961-1975; Moving, Household; Dating (Social customs)]