Exploring The Great Artists – 20+ Art Books For Kids

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There are a number of things that I am really passionate about doing with my kids – of course, there is LOTS of kids crafts – in particularly crafting with nature and with recycled materials. The other thing I am keen on, is to introduce my kids to art – or at least, make art fun for them and not scary or intimidating. I want to them to see art and enjoy it. I want them to pick up paint brushes and have fun. Not to feel worried about what is “good” or “bad”, but just see art as it is. I also want them to learn about the Great Artists – a basic education in art. The aim isn’t for them to know life histories or every single painting that is out there, but for them to familiar with the Great Artists and to enjoy looking at their work.

art books for kids a great introduction to REAL art for kids. We adore these art picture books. So inviting and not at all intimidating.

As part of this, we have a done whole series of “kids arty projects” – either exploring certain art materials, such as clay or pastels or exploring a great artists and the kind of art they created. We also pulled to gether a number of “other” projects – notably:

*  Exploring The Great Artists – 30 Art Projects for Kids

* 25 Great Artists Projects for Toddlers & Preschoolers

*30 more Great Artists Projects for kids, as well as

* A guide to London Galleries with kids

I have now pulled together a set of great art books – books that we have and love or that are recommended by fellow arty bloggers. Were relevant, I have added my fellow blogger’s Amazon’s book descriptions and referenced their blogs. Below is also an interview with art book author MaryAnn Kohl. 

Note: the following contains affiliate links, which help me raise some funds towards the hosting and running cost of this blog!

So.. let’s get started.

Artbooks for kids Looking At Pictures

(US Readers on amazon.com)

One of my favourite art books to date – produced by the National Gallery in London, with a bias to artwork actually at the Gallery, it does have a great approach to exploring at with children. I have a more in depth review here.

 

 

 

 

 


art books for kids Katie and the Mona Lisa, by James Mayhew.

(Available here on Amazon.com)

This is part of a series of “Katie” books and you will find another mentioned next – but there are about 10 in total. They really are lovely. In this particular one Grandma often takes Katie to the gallery. Katie wonders why the Mona Lisa smiles and whilst her Grandma has a little rest, Katie embarks on an adventure, stepping into and out of paintings. Meeting the Mona Lisa, dragons, lions and angels. We are introduced to a number of the most famous Renaissance paintings by Da Vinci, Raphael and Botticelli amongst others. It was a lovely way to “view paintings”, providing a little background about the paintings and introducing key artist to both parent and child. I love how it encourages you to “step inside the painting” and imagine what could have been happening. In the end Katie finds out what did make the Mona Lisa smile. Fabulous. Red Ted really enjoyed looking at  paintings and discovering details, whilst enjoying the excitement of the adventure (lots of tumbling and flying and running away).

Katie Meets the ImpressionistsKatie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew

(Available here on Amazon.com)

A little girl steps into one impressionist painting and then into another and another while visiting a museum with her grandmother. It’s a nice introduction to the major impressionist artists, and a lovely tie-in between art and imagination for young children.” recommended by Mama Smiles

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Anna's Art Adventure (Picture Books)

Anna’s Art Adventure,  by Bjorn Sortland

(Available here  on Amazon.com)

When we first opened this book, I though 0h-oh – a reasonable amount of text and not your usual “small child friendly” illustrations. However, we sat down to read. I decided to skim over the text and “tell” Red Ted (then 3yrs) old the story as we went along. Starting off with Anna talking to a very kind and old looking Rembrandt then visiting Munch and the very sad van Gogh. On we go through painting after painting, meeting various artists along the way. Surprisingly Red Ted loved it! And asked for me to read it 4 times in a row. It DID help, that Anna had to go to the toilet and was wandering through the paintings to find “Duchamp’s Toilet”. Toilets always grab little people’s attention! Red Ted was particularly curious about Picasso’s Dora Maar Seated and Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table – where everything is “square” and you can see it from all sides at once. He also asked by Andy WooWoo (Andy Warhol) was selling soup on the beach. I was chuffed to bits. The back of the book has extra information on the artist and some of the paintings shown. It is fabulous and I hope that Red Ted will still enjoy it when he is 10! A great reference book for a school art project!

Andy Warhol's Colors  Andy Warhol’s Colors By Susanna Rubin 

(Available here on Amazon.com)

This is great little board book that will also appeal to toddlers.  It is a nice child size and it has some wonderful Warhol reproductions in it. Like the Dog (You Are So Little) and Cat. They are surprisingly child friendly drawings and with pop art brightness perfect for discussing and discovering colours. A very sweet book and one I can read with a 1 year old AND a 3 year old AND enjoy as an adult. Perfect! Because of it is clean simple pages, this would make a great book for exploration prior to an art project.

henri matisse for preschoolers  Blue & Other Colours with Henri Matisse (US/ UK)

Similarly to the Andy Warhol book, there is this great hardboard picture book for preschoolers exploring Henri Matisse. Using the wonderful Henri Matisse shapes and patterns this book explores the wonderful world of COLOUR.

When we look at this book, not only do we discuss the colours that we can see, but we also imagine what else this picture could be about. Great fun for discussion and story telling!

Though definitely for the “younger crowd”!

Camille and the Sunflowers (Anholt's Artists) Camille and the Sunflowers, Laurence Anholt...

(Available here on Amazon.com)

This is the story of Vincent van Gogh through the eyes of a young postman’s son Camille (himself a subject of van Gogh’s paintings) It is indeed a little sad, as van Gogh life itself was one of non-acceptance and only late recognition. But it is beautifully told – bringing to life van Gogh’s paintings, as well as teaching your children about “being different”.

 

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Cezanne and the Apple Boy (Anholt's Artists) Cezanne and The Apple Boy, Laurence Anholt 

(Available here on Amazon.com)

“Again written and beautifully illustrated by Laurence Anholt, and it includes pictures of paintings by Cézanne.  Children will enjoy this book simply for the pictures, but of course there is an interesting story!  The story is true and told from the eyes of the apple boy who is really Cézanne’s son.”

Recommended by The Wise Owl Factory, please visit for a “full review”

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Van Gogh (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)Van Gogh (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artist)

(Available here on Amazon.com)

“An entertaining and humorous introduction to famous artists; – excellent colour reproductions of the artists work.”

“It is part of a wonderful pictures, humor, and information on the artist’s life.”

Recommended by JDaniel4sMom 

Part of a series of books.

 

Mini MastersMini Masters, by Julie Merberg

(Available here on Amazon.com)

“It’s never too early to introduce little ones to art. We love these box set of board books introducing Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Matisse.

Sturdy books with beautiful paintings.” Recommended by Smiling Like Sunshine (read full review here).

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O Canada by Ted Harrison book cover photo

O Canada, by Ted Harrison

(Available here on Amazon.com)

I think this book may be out of print in the UK, but I managed to get one second hand.

“Ted Harrison is one of Canada’s modern artists. This book is the first illustrated edition of Canada’s national anthem, “O Canada.”   Different lines of the song, which is in both French and English, are paired with Canada’s territories and provinces.  Each territory and province  is described at length for a picture book.   Adults will find the information interesting, too.” Recommended by The Wise Owl Factory, please visit for a full review.

 

Pop Warhol's Top (Touch the Art) Pop Warhol’s Top – Touch the Art, by Julie Appel

(Available here on Amazon.com)

” We love the “Touch The Art” series of books. We used 2 from the series to introduce our child to famous artists. They are touch and feel books which bring the paintings to life and allow children to interact with them.” Recommended by One Perfect Day

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OliviaOlivia, by Ian Falconer

“This is a great book because it incorporates a painting by Degas and a painting by Pollock without elaborating much on the paintings. A mom or teacher could use the book as a jumping off point to discuss different styles of art, how art inspires people in their lives, or use it as a lesson about those particular artists or pieces of work.” Recommend by 52 Brand New.

 

 

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The DotThe Dot, Peter Reynolds

Not strictly speaking an art book in the sense of the ones above, but one that ENCOURAGES getting arty – “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti says she can’t draw, but her teacher thinks she can. She knows there’s creative spirit in everyone, and encourages Vashti to sign the angry dot she makes in frustration on a piece of paper. This act makes Vashti begin to perceive herself differently, and see that where there’s a dot there’s a way…” Recommended by Awesomely Awake.

 

 

Willy's Pictures Anthony BrownWilly’s Pictures by Anthony Browne

“This is a really fun way to introduce children to art.  Willy is a character, a chimp, that appears in many of Browne’s story books. Each page features Willy in a famous or not so famous work of art. Lots of fun for children and adults with be drawn to it too.”

Recommend by 92three30 – go visit it for the FULL review and more on Tell Me A Picture.

 

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art books for kids Usbourne: My Very First ART colouring book and The Usbourne ART colouring book, both with stickers, are a brilliant introduction to a variety of well-known Masters. Each double page spread has the original work, together with a description and tips on how you could recreate the image. On the opposite page is a portion or outline from the same work of art which children can then use in their own way- either using art supplies they have or stickers provided. For us, it’s an excellent place to start to talk about works of art, and ways in which you can create art.” Recommended by, Domestic Goddesque

 

 

 

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Faces Faces, by David Goodman & Zoe Miller

(Available here on Amazon.com)

“Faces are all around us, everywhere we look. On every page of this inspiring and imaginative book the reader will encounter unusual and creative ways of making faces, using printing, collage, geometric shapes and sculpture. Surprising details are revealed by lifting flaps, looking through holes or turning the book upside-down. As well as being entertaining and engaging, “Faces” offers an insight into major modern art movements, including pop art, op art, abstraction, junk art and kinetic sculpture. The book’s designers reference key artists, including Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Eduardo Paolozzi and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as graphic designers of the 1950s and ’60s.” Recommended, by The Imagination Tree

 

Tell Me a Picture

Tell Me A Picture, by Quentin Blake

(Available here on Amazon.com)

“Quentin Blake chose twenty-six famous paintings and drawings and then added his own drawings of a lively family whose comments help the reader notice what’s special about each work of art.” Recommended, by The Imagination Tree

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A is for ArtistA is For Artist, Ella Doran

(Available here from Amazon.com)

“Up-to-the-minute with instant visual appeal. Each page is alive with visual images and special effects…a book to be savoured time and time again. –Eye (Early Years Educator)
Imagination-stretching…an extraordinary addition to any collection. –Kirkus
A stunning visual alphabet. –Book List”

Recommended, by The Imagination Tree

 

I Spy - Colours in ArtI Spy – Colours Art, by Harper COllins Children’s Books

(Available here from Amazon.com)

This is part of a series of “I Spy” books – there are also shapes, animals and alphabet to name but a few!

“A selection of fine art paintings from artists worldwide and throughout history, combined with a simple ‘I Spy’ game of spotting colours. A fun way to introduce children to fine art through concept-based play.”

Recommended, by The Imagination Tree

 

 

Can You Find It?: Search and Discover More Than 150 Details in 19 Works of ArtCan You Find It?, by Judith Cressy

(Available here from Amazon.com)

“Discover all the intriguing details that make great art so fascinating. Each spread in this exciting new book offers a work of art and at least eight items to hunt for somewhere within the painting. Turn the thrill of artistic discovery into a trip through history and around the world, as Can You Find It? invites young readers to look into shadows and reflections, through windows and in the branches of trees. * Find a baby and a yellow bowl in a busy scene from ancient China. * Find a traffic light and a pair of pinky rings in a quiet snack bar of a movie theater. * Find three hands and a white bird in a portrait of a five-year-old French king alone on his throne. * Find five butterflies and two owls in an Egyptian tomb painting. * Find a water pump and a haystack in a view down Main Street in small-town America. The nineteen paintings in Can You Find It?, all from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, include art ranging from ancient Egyptian friezes to 20th-century works. This book is a great tool to show young readers a wonderful new way to look at art.”

The Art Book For Children The Art Book for Children

Book One Available here from Amazon.com and Book Two from here.

We have ‘The Art Book for Children’ which is based on the iconic ‘adult’ version. I love it because it looks like a piece of art itself, covers lots of different styles and has thought provoking questions on each page to spur further creativity. Recommended by Make, Do and Friend.

If you want to read more abou the “iconic adult version”: The Art Book, then 92three30 has a review of it for you.

 

 

An Interview with MaryAnn Kohl

Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning) Discovering The Great Artists, MaryAnn Kohl

This is an additional to the book recommendations, as well as MaryAnn Kohl’s Great American Artists. I confess, that I still have these book “on order” and am eagerly awaiting their arrival. But many of you will be familiar with MaryAnn Kohl and the fabulous range of art and craft books for children that she has written.

In them meantime, I have a mini interview to share with you, which will hopefully support you in your Kids Get Arty journey!

1)      How did you start off on your Art journey?

As a child, I began my art journey with a box of crayons. I adored crayons, even the ones I accidentally left out in the sun on a rock. Fascinating! About age 3, I made a huge double-arm double-handful crayon-swirl above my bed on the wall. It had every color in it, and was probably about 3 feet across. Or so I remember. My Mom was nice about it when she discovered what I had done, but instead of being angry, she bought me paper to tape on the wall instead, and can you believe she left the huge swirls instead of painting over them? I could stare at them endlessly when I was little, seeing animals and faces and all kinds of things within their swirling lines. Then came coloring books, followed by pastels and a book of how to draw fairies and elves for Christmas. I gradually progressed toward simply loving to draw. I was never all that good, but I loved it. 

When I began teaching elementary kids, I found that all, and I mean ALL the kids loved art and were quiet and on task when they were creating. So I began to bring art into as many subjects as possible. Kids seemed to learn so well when they could do art at the same time. When I learned about some of the great masters, I encouraged the kids to try the techniques of some of the more famous ones like Monet and Van Gogh, and they LOVED it! So I was hooked. That’s when I began to study up on what artists might be interesting for kids to know about. Now I have two books on the subject: “Discovering Great Artists” and “Great American Artists for Kids”. 

I never knew art would become the guiding force in my professional life, but it has, and it’s so wonderful to impact the creativity of children through my books.

2)      What made you decide to write art books for children?

I grew up in a book family. What I mean by that is that my Dad ran a book bindery where I spent many Saturdays watching the presses and smelling the ink, the leather, seeing books pop out of machines and then stack on huge shelves in the warehouse. It was amazing to see! We were given many samples to bring home, and publishers were always sending us books in the mail. My Grampa owned bookstores across the country, my Grandma was a published author, and my Mom ran a lending library from our very own living room. Books, books, books! 

Our home library was arranged by color (thanks to my mom) and not by title or author. I still remember many of my favorite books by their colors rather than who wrote them or what they were called.

All my life I somehow expected that I would write a book. I didn’t dream about it, I just knew it. And when I was ready to actually do it, instead of writing a story as I had imagined, I took my favorite art ideas from teaching and published them myself in my first book, Scribble Art. My kids were both in school all day for the first time, and I had that little bit of extra time to put the project together. And that was the beginning.

On top of that, everyone in my family seemed to be a person who created or was an artistic person – nothing fancy or super talented, just good and creative. My mom played piano and was an oil painter, my Dad was a cartoonist and played guitar and sang, my brother was a great writer, and then there was me! I liked crayons and ballet and later piano and singing.

3)      What is your best advice to someone who wants to do arts or crafts with their kids  but says “I really can’t do art, I am not artistic at all, so how can I be creative with my children”?

Being creative has never meant being skilled or good at art. Being creative is a way of thinking, a way of life. It means that during any part of your life, you can think up options and choices, that you are open to alternatives and flexible to new ideas and new ways of doing things. So begin there. 

Be open to seeing what your kids can do with the materials you provide for them. it doesn’t have to be fancy. Cotton balls, glue and paper plates would be an easy example of collage materials for kids to work with. Let kids cut junk mail into shapes and pieces and glue them or tape them together. Give them construction paper, scissors, and a stapler. What you are doing is giving them permission to discover, experiment, and test their own creative waters without fear of judgement.

What you want to remind yourself is that it is not the cute or gorgeous finished product that gives value; it is the process of creating and trying new ideas and experimenting with materials that has value. Say to yourself:”It’s the process, not the product.” Keep repeating that!

4)      How do I start exploring Art with my children?

Being early, even before age one. But if you didn’t begin early, now is the right time, the right age. Have a little shelf or box at child  level where they can access their own materials. If they are very young, you would want to bring out things for them and set them out on the floor on a mat or on a short table. Don’t put out too much at once until the kids get used to using materials and helping to clean up too. The more they do, the more they can handle.

And isn’t that important, to be able to do more and more as they learn? Art is like the language that has no words, but still speaks. For many children, it is the only time they let their feelings flow. For other children, it’s more like science where they test their ideas and try new things. For yet other kids, art is a time of calm from the storm. 

Children who are encouraged to be creative and have opportunity to create tend to do better in all their subjects in school as they grow. Just think: We have an entire hemisphere of the brain that is ready for creativity! It must be important!!

5)      What should be in my basic art box? 

Crayons, scissors, glue, tape, all kinds of paper, stapler, play clay or playdough, paints and brushes, and containers of collage items that you collect (your kids can help)

The list could grow from here of course.

I have to mention that my favorite art supply is called “liquid watercolors”, which I buy at discountschoolsupply.com. I love love love those paints!

**Thank you MaryAnn, I just LOVE the story about your Crayon swirls! And that your mother ordered your libray by colour! That made me smile!**

MaryAnn F. Kohl is the author of over 20 books on creative art for kids, owns Bright Ring Publishing, and is a literary agent for the parenting and education genre. MaryAnn enjoys writing, skiing, playing with her dog, and all things family. You can connetc with MaryAnn Kohl via publishing site, her blog, her facebook page and her twitter account.

 

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