Children’s Books for Art Study


   “Art is one of the basics for little children.

They love talking, listening to stories, and drawing or painting.”

Isn’t what Susan Schaeffer Macaulay shares in For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School true? Put two of those together and I think you have some of the best building blocks for teaching art. I’ve made a long wish list of books I’d like to check out for our art study this year and I thought you might be interested in them too. I’ve broken them down broadly by subjects we’re covering for Classical Conversations Cycle 2, but of course, they’d work for anyone studying these aspects of art. And don’t fear, there is nary a boring textbook or encyclopedia on the list.

Elements of Art:

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds – This witty story takes the reader on a gentle journey encouraging anyone to try to be creative. I’m excited to share it with the hesitant ones among my family.

I am An Artist  by Pat Lowery Collins – To be an artist, you must first see the beauty around you. This book encourages a closer look at creation.

Lines That Wiggle by Candace Whitman – I love how this rhyming book reinforces that art begins with a simple line.

When A Line Bends, A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene – Same idea as book above and coincidentally, also a rhyming book. This title, however, is interactive and asks the reader to find various shapes on each page. This sounds especially perfect for the younger ages.

Harold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson – I bet you know this classic and may even have a copy at home. If not, I’m sure the library has at least one. This book follows the adventures of Harold as everything he draws with his magical purple crayon comes to life till he ends up right back in bed where he started. A sweet tale. 

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg – This funny book all begins with a lonely pencil drawing. Follow along to see why the pencil ultimately needs to draw an eraser.

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds – Another title for the reluctant or discouraged artist, it’s a good reminder that art doesn’t need to be perfect. Ish can be purchased as a 3 book box set entitled Creatrilogy with The Dot and Sky Colors.

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh – When three white mice and three jars of paint mix, you get a cute lesson in color blending.

Great Artists:

1. A Blue Butterfly: A Study About Claude Monet by Bijou Le Tord – Besides telling the story of Monet’s life and work, author Le Tord used the same eight color palette (only 8!) Monet used to illustrate the book. How smart!

2. Once Upon A Lily Pad: Froggy Love in Monet’s Garden by Joan Sweeney – This out-of-print book tells the story of two frogs in love in Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France. What lucky frogs! And you too, if you can find this book.

3. Degas & The Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt – Anholt has written a series of books, Anholt’s Artists Books for Children, which tell tales of memorable encounters between famous artists and children. 

4. Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew – To paraphrase the School Library Journal’s review, this delightful fantasy of Katie entering the paintings succeeds as both art education and a charming tale, which sounds pretty perfect to me.

5. Olivia by Ian Falconer – Including the first book about the little girl pig from New York a little stretch? Perhaps, but she does visit the Met and see a Degas painting (among others).

6. Mini Masters – A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober – There must be something about rhyming text and art, because we see that pairing again here. Original art is included in these books, so it’d be easy to make a home based art museum with all the Mini Masters offerings, which include Degas, Renoir, Picasso, Cassatt, Gauguin, Rousseau, Seurat, Matisse, and Van Gogh.

7. Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists by Childrens Press – Guys, there are 47 volumes covering the life and style of artists Botticelli, Brueghel, Cassatt, Cezanne, Da Vinci, Degas, Delacroix, El Greco, Gauguin, Giotto, Goya, Grandma Moses, Homer, Hopper, Kahlo, Klee, Lange, Lawrence, Lichtenstein, Magritte, Matisse, Michelangelo, Monet, O’Keeffe, Picasso, Pippin, Pissarro, Pollock, Raphael, Rembrandt, Remington, Renoir, Ringgold, Rivera, Rockwell, Rousseau, Seurat, Titian, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Velasquez, Vermeer, Warhol, Whistler, and Wood. The full box set is out of print, so be on the lookout at secondhand sales. But, many of the individual books can still be purchased at Amazon and other bookstores. I’ve linked the ones we’re particularly interested in for now.

8. Adventures in Art by Laura Chapman – With six books in the series and each lesson containing art study, discussion questions, and an art project, these can form a complete art curriculum.

9. Monet Paints A Day by Julie Danneberg – This book is based on a true day in Monet’s life and includes excerpts from his notes and letters. Finding original source text in a children’s art book is a rare gift, I think.

10. No One Saw by Bob Raczka – Reading this book can inspire children to consider how they see the world differently than anyone else, just as the famous artists explored in the book.

11. Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson – This book is also available as an audiobook, but the print version has vivid pictures. Which to try first? It’s a beloved book that has stood the test of time, so I imagine the investment would be worthwhile either way.

12. Museum ABC and Museum 123 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Varying art to represent each letter of the alphabet in the first book and numbers 1-10 in the second. This would be a great introduction for the 4-6 year olds and younger.

My hope is to read a little each week to my CC class. This is my first year tutoring, so I’ll have to play around with how the time works out. I’ve seen it work for other tutors to read while the students are drawing or snacking. I know it can be a good break from the memory work during the day, especially for the younger students. If that doesn’t work out, then it’s a good list for my family and I can share it with my students’ families too.






  1. Thomas Whalen says

    We homeschool our 10 year old son. Along with teaching him Computer Programming, Math and General Facts, I teach him Art. He is learning to paint with Oils, Acrylics, Watercolors and Oil Pastels. He has read the books ‘Color & Light’ and ‘Timeless Techniques For Better Oil Painting’. Currently we are going through the book ‘Oil Painting For Dummies’ and five days a week we watch 30 minutes of one of the many Igor Saratov painting demonstrations on YouTube.

    • Beth Watson says

      Thank you for sharing! I put both the books you recommended on my Amazon/library wish list. Your comments came across just as I was finishing watching video art lessons for about 30 minutes. How did you find your favorite artist to follow on YouTube?

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