I spoke with a grade school teacher the other day, who was under the impression that libraries have little to offer when it comes to picture books about art. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have come a long way since Harold and the Purple Crayon. As it turned out, she was looking for a broad range of materials that would both inspire and educate budding artists.
Illustrator David Wiesner immediately came to mind as someone who truly celebrates the picture book as an art form. In Art & Max, a lizard tries to paint his mentor and gets very carried away. Children and adults will laugh themselves silly, as they are dazzled by the inventiveness of this story that goes to the very heart of creative exploration.
And who wouldn’t be enamored of Dog in Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates? The entire winsome cast of characters gets in on the fun of adding something new to this mixed media tale. It ends with a lovely thank you card to Aunt Dora, who gave Dog the drawing materials in the first place. Kids ages four to eight will see themselves trading places with the lead character in Jeff Mack’s The Things I Can Do. This is a fun way to introduce kids to the concept of collages. On the theme of finding inspiration, Bridget’s Beret by Tom Lichtenheld tells the story of how Bridget deals with artist’s block when the beret she draws inspiration from blows away.
If you’re looking to introduce early elementary students to famous artists, I would recommend either the DVD or book series Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists. Both the books and DVDs are very entertaining as well as educational.
Two exceptional, and fairly recent, Impressionist biographies are Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter and The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel. Winter’s simple but effective biography shows how Matisse’s idea for using cutouts in art came to him as an ailing, nearly bedridden artist. Markel manages to capture Rousseau’s luscious imaginative color and style in her portrayal of the artist.
For older elementary students, DK’s My Art Book provides an enticing overview of various well-known artists with related projects that they can create themselves. It includes Hokusai, Degas, Klee, Rivera, Andy Warhol and others. The Art in History series by Susie Hodge does an excellent job of introducing the art of the ancients. The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents Museum Shapes which points one towards the building blocks of all art. And on a lighter note, peruse Mousterpiece: A Mouse-sized Guide to Modern Art by Jane Zalben which incorporates the style of well-known modern artists from a mouse’s frame of reference.
-Maggie Wrobel, Centreville Regional Library