Look at these beautiful picture books to observe
techniques for creating your own artwork!
Rylant, Cynthia. Long Night Moon. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Names tell stories. And in this poetic picture book, Rylant lyrically describes the name for each month’s moon. November has a Frosty Moon. February has a Snow Moon. June has a Strawberry Moon.
All these names were given to the moon long ago by Native Americans. In Canada nowadays, we would say aboriginal people or indigenous people. These names for the first people of North America tell their own stories.
What is your name? What story does it tell?
This picture book creates a wonderful opening for all sorts of discussions. And the evocative full-page charcoal, pencil and pastel illustrations by Mark Siegel will inspire all sorts of art work in readers 6 years old and up.
Archer, Micha. Wonder Walkers. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021.
Gorgeous double-page illustrations help tell this story of two children who go on a nature walk. Minimal text – in the form of imaginative questions – will inspire students to see the world with fresh eyes. Artists will be reminded of all the colours used by picture book author Brian Wildsmith. Teachers will want to use this picture book to introduce the literary technique of personification. A 2022 Caldecott Honor Book. Highly recommended!
Baker, Jeannie. Circle. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2016.
“Each year, bar-tailed godwits undertake the longest unbroken migration of any bird, flying from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to Australia and New Zealand and back again. They follow invisible pathways–pathways that have been followed for thousands of years–while braving hunger and treacherous conditions to reach their destination. In Circle, Jeannie Baker follows the godwit’s incredible flight, taking us over awe-inspiring scenes as the birds spread their wings above such beautiful landmarks as the Great Barrier Reef and China’s breathtaking cityscapes.” – CIP.
Bruchac, Joseph. The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story. New York : Dial, 1994.
Carle, Eric. A House for Hermit Crab. New York : Simon and Schuster, 1987.
Carle, Eric. Mister Seahorse. New York : Philomel Books, 2004.
Carle, Eric. The Mixed-up Chameleon. New York : HarperCollins, 1975.
Carle, Eric.“Slowly, slowly, slowly,” said the sloth. New York : Puffin Books, 2002.
Carle, Eric. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. New York : Philomel Books, 1969.
Child, Lauren. That Pesky Rat. Cambridge : Candlewick, 2002.
Fox, Mem. Hattie and the Fox. Bradbury Press, 1986.
Isadora, Rachel. Rapunzel. New York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008.
Isadora, Rachel. The Twelve Dancing Princesses. New York : G. P. Puttnam’s Sons, 2007.
Isadora, Rachel. Hansel and Gretel. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009.
Isadora, Rachel. The Princess and the Pea. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007.
Isadora, Rachel. Rapunzel. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008.
Isadora, Rachel. The Twelve Dancing Princesses. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007.
Isadora, Rachel. The Ugly Duckling. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009.
These fairytales are all set in Africa. But you can’t tell by the words. Only by the illustrations: colourful full-page collages. These beautiful books by a Caldecott Honor author could be used for teaching art or folklore or simply for reading aloud. Teachers of older students might like to compare these books to Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman as illustrated by Murray Kimber.
Keats, Ezra Jack. Apt. 3. Toronto : Macmillan 1971.
Keats, Ezra Jack. Peter’s Chair. New York : Harper & Row, 1967.
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day. New York : Puffin Books, 1962.
Lionni, Leo. Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse. Toronto : Scholastic, 1969.
Lionni, Leo. A Busy Year. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2021.
Two mice – twins – befriend a tree on the first day of a new year. Every month – as the seasons change – they visit her and care for her until it is winter once again. A charming board book – with a humorous Christmas surprise at the end – recommended for children 4 to 8 years old.
Lionni, Leo. Fish is Fish. Toronto Random House 1970.
Lionni, Leo. Matthew’s Dream. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.
MacLachlan, Patricia. Prairie Days. New York, Toronto: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020.
Any story by Patricia MacLachlan is worth reading. Any book by Margaret K. McElderry is worth looking at. And this picture book illustrated with collages by Micha Archer is no exception. Written from the first-person point of view, it is a wonderfully exuberant celebration of long-ago summers on the American prairies. n excellent read-aloud for family gatherings. Highly recommended for everyone who loves country life.
Mavor, Salley. Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010. (Hand-sewn fabric relief collages)
Myers, Walter Dean. Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam. HarperCollins Publishers, 2002. (Collages by Ann Grifalconi.)
Napoli, Donna Jo. Mama Mita. New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010.
Schertle, Alice. We. New York : Lee & Low Books Inc., 2007.
A picture book also suited to students of history, the text describes how civilization developed over time and how we all are still interdependent on this earth.
Valerio, Geraldo. My Book of Birds. Toronto: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2016.
Over thirty different species of North American birds are cleverly illustrated with collages and briefly described in this beautiful nonfiction book. A glossary, bibliography, and index are included, and an egg and a feather for each bird are depicted on the endpapers. Recommended for artistic readers of all ages. [Birds]
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, enraged, 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.)
Ardizzone, Edward. Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 2000. (ink and watercolour)
Ardizzone, Edward. Tim and Charlotte. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 2000. (ink and watercolour)
Ardizzone, Edward. Tim and Ginger. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 2000. (ink and watercolour)
Ardizzone, Edward. Tim in Danger. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 2000. (ink and watercolour)
Ardizzone, Edward. Tim to the Rescue. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 2000. (ink and watercolour)
Chen, Jiang Hong. Mao and Me. Enchanted Lion Books, 2008. (ink and watercolour)
Golio, Gary. Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix. Clarion Books, 2010. [Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe.]
Horacek, Petr. A New House for Mouse. Candlewick Press, 2004.
James, Simon. George Flies South. Candlewick Press, 2011. (ink and watercolour)
Lasky, Kathryn. One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin. Candlewick Press, 2009. (watercolor, graphite pencil, gouache, acrylic ink, colored pencil and collage)
Macaulay, David. Black and White. Houghton Mifflin, 1990. (gouache, ink and watercolor)
Pinkney, Jerry. The Lion and the Mouse. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. (watercolour and pencil crayons)
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. HarperCollins, 1991. (ink and tempera)
Steptoe, John. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1987. (ink and watercolour)
Ungar, Richard. Rachel’s Library. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2004.
A delightfully colourful story inspired by ‘Chelm’s School’ by Samuel Tenenbaum, useful as a read-aloud as a precursor to an art lesson. [Books and reading; Humorous stories; Jews; Libraries; Poland; Village life] (watercolour and coloured pencil)
Viorst, Judith. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1971. (Illustrated by Erik Blegvad; ink and watercolour.)
Wildsmith, Brian. Exodus. Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 1988.
Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon. Philomel Books, c1987. (Illustrated by John Schoenherr; ink and watercolour.)
DaCosta, Barbara. Mighty Moby. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2017.
Beautifully designed. Powerfully illustrated. Wondrously retold with a new ending. A perfect bedtime story for listeners 6 to 10 years old.
Modelling Clay and Plasticine
Reid, Barbara. Picture a Tree. North Winds Press, 2011.
Reid, Barbara. Read Me A Book. North Winds Press, 2003.
Soto, Gary. Snapshots from the Wedding. G.P. Putnam’s, 1997. (Illustrated with clay and collage by Stephanie Garcia.)
Asch, Frank. Good Night, Baby Bear. Harcourt Brace, 1998.
George, Kristine O’Connell. Book! Clarion Books, 2001. (Illustrated by Maggie Smith.)
Hines, Anna Grossnickle. Miss Emma’s Wild Garden. Greenwillow Books, 1997.
Johnson, Paul Brett. Farmer’s Market. Orchard Books, 1997.
Rylant, Cynthia. Scarecrow. Harcourt Brace, 1998. (Illustrated by Lauren Stringer.)
Bang, Molly. When Sophie Gets Angry – Really Really Angry. Blue Sky, 1999.
Bruno, Elsa Knight. Punctuation Celebration. Henry Holt, 2009.
Hutchins, Pat. Shrinking Mouse. Greenwillow Books, 1997.
Larson, Kirby and Mary Nethery. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival. Walker and Company, 2008.
Sis, Peter. Fire Truck. Greenwillow Books, 1998.
Williams, Vera. “More, more, more,” said the baby: 3 Love Stories. Greenwillow Books, 1990.
Isaacs, Anne. Swamp Angel. Dutton Children’s Books, 1994. (Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky)
Javaherbin, Mina. Goal! Candlewick Press, 2010. (Illustrated by A.G. Ford)
Napoli, Donna Jo. The Earth Shook: A Persian Tale. New York : Hyperion Books, 2009.
Parisa, a little girl, dances despite the despair all around. Inspired by the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, this picture book could inspire classroom discussions about what it means to be human.
Rylant, Cynthia. In November. Harcourt, 2000. (Illustrated by Jill Kastner.)
Bogart, Jo Ellen. Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis. Toronto: Tundra Books ; Plattsburgh, N.Y.: Tundra Books of Northern New York, 2002.
Scenes of everyday life by a self-trained artist: horses pulling sleighs, cows grazing in fields, children walking to school, fishing boats on the sea. Maud Lewis – one of Canada’s greatest folk artists – didn’t follow all the rules regarding proportion and perspective. She didn’t include shadows in her scenes of summer. She sometimes painted impossible things, such as flowers on evergreen trees or snowy valleys surrounded by green hills. But all the time, her paintings were full of joy, even though her own life was full of hardship. This biography – illustrated by Mark Lang – isn’t the most well-designed picture book: the font is too small and serious; and the layout doesn’t reflect the happiness of the full-page colourful paintings. But the text is full of information and so the book would be useful as a read-aloud for children eight years old and up. It would be especially valuable as an introduction to a lesson on folk art or a unit on facing adversity with courage. [Nova Scotia]
Bartone, Elisa. Peppe the Lamplighter. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1993. (Illustrations by Ted Lewin.)
Ehlert, Lois. Eating the Alphabet. Harcourt, 1989.
Juster, Norton. The Hello, Goodbye Window. [N.p.] : Hyperion Books for Children, 2005.
Pinkney, Jerry. The Ugly Duckling. Morrow Junior Books, 1999. (Adapted from Hans Christian Anderson.)
Say, Allen. Grandfather’s Journey. Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
Steig, William. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005, c1969. (Watercolour outlined in pen.)
Wiesner, David. Tuesday. Clarion Books, 1991.
Lear, Edward. The Owl and the Pussycat. London: Puffin, 2014.
This lusciously nonsensical poem was first published in 1871. Charlotte Voake beautifully illustrates it in pen and ink and watercolour. The layout of the pages and the size and style of the font enhance the romantic mood. Highly recommended for all ages.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer. Walker & Co., 2008.
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Polar Express. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Pen and Ink
Cole, Henry. Forever Home: A Dog and Boy Love Story. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2022.
A forlorn little dog is left behind when its owners move. A sad little boy longs to have a dog. The two meet and find happiness in this wordless picture book by an award-winning author. The feelings of longing and love in the illustrations are enhanced by a red leash and collar, the only spots of colour in the finely detailed black and white drawings.
The little boy in this story lives with two dads. Some readers may object, saying it normalizes what they believe is wrong. Others may rejoice, saying that at last same sex couples are becoming normalized. I think that the relationship is not important to the central idea of the story: adopting a homeless animal brings love to life! Highly recommended for anyone who has longed for a pet (and would-be artists who admire black and white drawings).Macaulay, David. Cathedral. Hougton Mifflin, 1973.
Macaulay, David. Rome Antics. Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
Pencil and Pencil Crayons
Ackerman, Karen. The Song and Dance Man. Knopf, 1988. (Illustrated by Stephen Gammell.)
Buitrago, Jairo. Cave Paintings. Toronto: Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2020.
A young boy – on summer vacation – travels across the universe to visit his grandmother on Earth. Stunningly beautiful full-page coloured pencil illustrations by Rafael Yockteng help tell this brilliantly imaginative story highly recommended for readers 7 to 12 years old. Translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado.
P.S. A great introduction to a unit on space travel or the history of technology.
P.P.S. A lovely addition to a unit on stories from countries around the world. The author lives in Mexico and the illustrator in Columbia.
Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad are Friends. HarperCollins, 1970.
Peet, Bill. The Ant and the Elephant. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1972.
Peet, Bill. Chester the Worldly Pig. New York : Hougton Mifflin, 1965.
Peet, Bill. Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1975.
Peet, Bill. Fly, Homer, Fly. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 1969, 1997.
Peet, Bill. The Wump World. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 1970.
Steptoe, John. The Story of Jumping Mouse: A Native American Legend. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1984.
Van Allsburg, Chris. Jumanji. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1981.
Gerstein, Mordecai. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Roaring Brook Press, 2003.
Van Allsburg, Chris. Queen of the Falls. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2011.
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Polar Express. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
Wiesner, David. Flotsam. New York : Clarion Books, 2006.
Wiesner, David. Tuesday. Clarion Books, 1991.
Prints and Woodcuts
Emberley, Barbara. Drummer Hoff. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1987, c1967.(Illustrated by Ed Emberley.)
Maclachlan, Patricia. What You Know First. Joanna Cotler Books, 1995. (Engravings by Barry Moser.)
Manson, Christopher. The Tree in the Wood: An Old Nursery Song. North-South Books, 1993.
McCloskey, Robert. Make Way for Ducklings. Viking Press, 1969, c1941.
Stead, Philip Christian. A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Roaring Brook Press, 2010.
Swanson, Susan Marie. The House in the Night. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2008. (Pictures by Beth Krommes.)
McGinty, Alice B. Thank You, World. (Illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin; Crayola crayons over pencil drawings.)
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]
Cole, Tom Clohosy. Wall. Somerville, Mass.: Templar Books, 2014.
In 1961, families found themselves suddenly separated by the Berlin Wall. East Berlin was under Communist rule and people were not permitted to cross the wall and join their relatives in the West. In this evocatively illustrated picture book, a young boy is determined to find a way for his family to be reunited. Told from the first person point of view and based on true stories, Wall is recommended for readers 8 years old and up. (Artists interested in seeing how to depict night-time scenes may appreciate analyzing the illustrations which were created digitally but provide ideas for working with pastels.) [Berlin Wall; Fathers; Germany; Tunnels]