Inspiring Children’s Books for Young Artists
Goodnight, Starry Night by Julie Appel, illustrated by Amy Guglielmo
Simple, rhyming narration wishes readers good-night as well as telling the images in the famous artwork a good-night, too. “Goodnight kitty, curled in a ball… Peek-a-boo, cat! Goodnight pillow. Goodnight wall.” This book doesn’t try to be something it’s not — it’s developmentally appropriate with a soothing lullaby illustrated in vibrant colors and accessible artwork. Impressive!
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
What is a beautiful oops? It’s taking a “mistake” and making it into something beautiful. Saltzberg shows this exquisitely Beautiful Oops as he illuminates the possibilities in a ripped piece of paper, a coffee stain, smudges, and even a hole. It’s a wonderful, important life lesson about shifting perspectives to see …something more.
Little Big Nate Draws a Blank by Lincoln Peirce
From the charming Big Nate graphic novels for older readers, this adaptation tells about when Nate gets a new box of crayons. Can you guess what he will draw? “A dog? Too hairy. // A shark? Too scary!” And so it continues with guesses and adjectives describing each drawing. What will he draw?
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Vashti is discouraged with her artistic abilities. She makes a dot on her paper just to prove that she can’t do art. That’s when her teacher encourages her to explore dots. And that changes everything. The Dot is a marvelous, inspiring story about being brave, trying something new, and seeing the possibilities.
Chalk by Bill Thomson
This is what happens on a rainy day when three friends draw with chalk on the sidewalk. . . the drawings come to life!
Anywhere Artist by Nikki Slade Robinson
Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Edlridge
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat
This beautiful story shows how art brings together two generations separated by language and age. Mostly wordless, this is almost a graphic novel with exquisite artwork in comic-style panels. A boy arrives at his grandfather’s house. He’s frustrated because his grandfather doesn’t speak English. The two eat in silence. Then the boy begins drawing himself as a caped-superhero. Excited, his grandfather draws himself as a superhero, too — only one garbed in what appears to be a traditional ceremonial dress. Their connection continues through art — each with his own unique style.
Pepper Zhang Artist Extraordinaire! by Jerry Zhang, illustrated by Trisha Hautea
Pepper is a girl who uses art to express her emotions. Which is a good thing. But, she becomes a famous artist and her ego gets inflated. So, she makes a change in her priorities and starts spending more time with her family.
Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare
A sweet story is about a young artist on a field trip who gets lost. He spends his time drawing, then meets and befriends aliens who join him in artistic expression. The illustrations are stunning.
Anna at the Art Museum by Hazel Hutchins, Gail Herbert, and Liz Crump
Anna is an imaginative, curious girl who visits the art museum with her mom. She accidentally sets off an alarm and gets in trouble for eating a snack. Bored, she discovers the place where the artwork is restored. She finds a painting she totally connects with –a grumpy girl like her– and that changes how she sees all of the artwork. Beautiful illustrations of real, diverse art.
Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum by Carolyn Bracken
In a story that changes famous paintings to include animals, you’ll find famous artwork celebrated! Mr. Owliver works as the night watchman at the art museum. He lovs seeing the art close up with no crowds, having conversations with the paintings, even imagining he is in the paintings. Then one night, the paintings’ subjects are missing! Has he failed at his job? A fun surprise ending.
Art & Max by David Wiesner
Exquisitely illustrated, follow the creative journey of two friends, Max and Arthur, who both love to paint but with different levels of experience. Together, the two find brave ways to explore their art. Incredibly inspiring.
The Art Collector by Jan Wahl
Oscar isn’t an artist but he is an art appreciator. Starting with the red crayon chicken drawn for him by his great-granny, Oscar frames and collects art he loves. The book describes the different paintings he collects and how his collection grows so big that a museum needs to be built.
Imagine! by Raúl Colón
When a skateboarding boy visits the Museum of Modern Art, the paintings come to life. Painted people and animals step out of their frames to exuberantly explore New York City with the boy. They visit a roller coaster, the Statue of Liberty, a hot dog stand, Central Park, and then return to the museum and their canvases. But that’s not the end of the story. The boy finds an empty building’s wall where he paints a large mural about his joyful day. Colon’s richly textured, earth-colored illustrations sparkle with energy.
Emma and Muse by Nancy Lemon
Emma’s art is inspired by her dog, Muse. But, she gets mad at Muse. So mad that Muse leaves home. Emma feels terrible. She uses art to paint her apologies all over town. Kids will learn a little about artists and their inspiration as well as solving a conflict.
You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, illustrated by Robin Glasser
The little girl leaves her yellow balloon tied up outside the art museum. While the girl and her grandmother visit the artwork inside, the balloon and a pigeon have a wild adventure around NYC outside in delightful parallel stories with no words. What can you do with a wordless picture book like this one? Read ideas here.
Anholt’s Artists Activity Book by Laurence Anholt
If your child loves art, this amazing picture book is for you. It’s half biography and half activity book. You’ll learn about Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas, Matisse, Monet, and Cezanne and try art activities that imitate each of the artists’ styles. Anholt’s books are perfect for introducing great artists to children!
Mayhem at the Museum: A book in pictures illustrated by Luciano Lozano
A little girl in blue overalls goes to the museum field trip where the pictures come alive! (Van Gogh gives her his straw hat and apples fall out of a still life.) She and her classmates play with the props and characters in whimsical, imaginative fun! Be sure to read the museum sign on the last two pages. What does it say about the art?
See ALL recommended famous artist picture book biographies here.
Written And Drawn By Henrietta a Toon Level 3 Book by Liniers (ages 5 – 7)
SUCH a wonderful early reader about a young writer who gets new colored pencils that inspire her to write and illustrate a story. As it continues, we see her discussing the plotting with her cat — it’s such a great example of the story writing process.
My Life in Pictures (Bea Garcia) by Deborah Zemke (ages 6 – 9)
Sadly, Bea’s best friend and next-door neighbor moves away. When a new, mean boy named Bert moves in, Bea survives by drawing pictures of her life and her hopes for the future — including imagining Bert in various horrible geographic places. When her teacher finds Bea’s drawings, instead of getting in trouble, Bea’s artistry is celebrated. I like the diverse main character and the relatable topic.
The Rise of the Rusty Robo-Cat You Draw the Story by Mike Lowery (ages 6 – 9)
Cats all over the city are acting strange. You must help Carl, the duck, get to the bottom of it! This beings an adventure story of a megalomaniac cat mind-controlling all the city’s cats with a robo-cat machine. Your creative drawings are what will help Carl escape the cage he’s trapped in, among other things. Read and draw your way through this delightful interactive graphic novel adventure, perfect for 2nd and 3rd graders.
Doodle Adventures: The Search for Slimy Space Slugs! by Mike Lowery (ages 6 – 9)
These books invite YOU the reader to help solve the mysteries with your own bravery, heroism, and imaginative drawing. Yes, drawing. For example, in this story, you’ll make sure (by drawing) that you’ve got a spacesuit, you’ve packed everything you need to bring, the rocket design is perfect plus has some silly (bandages!?) extras, and lots more as the adventure ensues. It may sound contrived but it’s a fun, engaging adventure that any kid, artist or not, will love. And there is MORE in the series!
Ashley Small & Ashlee Tall Brushes and Basketballs by Michele Jakubowski (ages 6 – 9)
The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks
A boy with no memory is found at the National Gallery staring at a Degas sculpture. Strangely, this boy knows everythig about art and artists. Soon we learn he’s being hunted by a team of professional bad guys. The boy, Art, and his foster sister escape from several kidnapping attempts and begin to unravel who he is and what’s going on.
The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
Celebrating artwork, this magical mystery reveals that the people in the paintings are ALIVE. Of course, the Beaverbrook Gallery paintings have strict rules to prevent humans from discovering this truth. Only Mona Dunn doesn’t always follow the rules. She’s seen by the curator’s son named Sargent who is visiting his estranged father for the summer and they develop a close friendship. Meanwhile, she and the other paintings wonder if the creepy art restorer is an art forger because something is suspicious. The book shows copies of all the paintings including a Salvador Dali which give readers a vivid sense of where much of the book takes place — in the paintings themselves. It’s an excellent, page-turning mystery with important themes about family, forgiveness, and friendship.
Primer by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski, illustrated by Gretel Lusky
16-year-old Ashley hopes her latest foster home will be a fit — they’re funny, quirky, and really accepting. Then, Ashley finds very special lab-created body paints in her foster mom’s closet and quickly learns that when applied to her body, they give her superpowers, different powers for each color; powers like fire, flying, and strength. Meanwhile, her not-very-nice incarcerated dad is giving her trouble and the government lab and military will stop at nothing to find the missing paints. Fast-paced, exciting, and perfect for readers who love underdogs, girl power, friendship, creativity, and art!
Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
Miles’ spidey sense is whacking out when he’s at school, especially in his history class. Add to that, he’s worried he will turn out like his criminal uncle. So, Miles, who is Puerto-Rican and African American, stops being Spider Man. Until he discovers a chilling plot of men named Chamberlain who work under the control of The Warden. Now, he must use all his skills to save the world from a racist threat. You’ll love the diversity, the two-parent family, and the complexity of Mile’s character, a boy who loves his graffiti art, family, and friends.
Why Is Art Full of Naked People? by Susie Hodge
My 11-year-old, artistically-inclined daughter thinks this is the BEST book! In fact, she says it’s been much better than this year’s not-so-great art teacher at her school. You’ll find out so many useful facts to questions you probably didn’t even know you had such as: Why is everything blurry? Do artists copy each other? Why is art so expensive? This book takes common kid questions and helps children understand and appreciate art in a deeper way.