Art Appreciation Books for Kids

Published Wednesday, February 19, 2020

In my personal experience, learning about art has been one of life's greatest pleasures. I like to spend my free time traveling to and visiting art museums. I often see small children visiting with their parents and grandparents and wonder what they are thinking as they look up and marvel at the artwork. On a recent trip, I overheard a mother asking her child about the details in a Rembrandt painting and prompting them with questions to get them thinking about the artist's intentions. Hearing this made me want to share my love of art with the children in my life & so I went on a hunt for the best, easy-to-understand, picture books intended to help young wonders learn about and appreciate art. I've compiled a list of 16 picture books with beautiful illustrations, easy to understand biographical facts, and fun, sometimes fictional, story lines to get kids interested in some of the world's top artists!

The Magical Garden of Claude Monet
by Laurence Anholt

Julie is a happy little girl who lives in Paris, but she wishes she could walk in a country garden. Julie is pleased when her mother decides to take her to visit the most wonderful garden in the world, owned by a great friend of the family.

Based on a true story about the daughter of another fine artist, Berthe Morisot, this charmingly illustrated picture book includes reproductions by author-illustrator Laurance Anholt of a famous waterlilies painting, which Monet completed in his garden at Giverny, a few miles from Paris.

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If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur
by Amy Newbold

Amy Newbold conveys nineteen artists’ styles in a few deft words, while Greg Newbold’s chameleon-like artistry shows us Edgar Degas’ dinosaur ballerinas, Cassius Coolidge’s dinosaurs playing Go Fish, Hokusai’s dinosaurs surfing a giant wave, and dinosaurs smelling flowers in Mary Cassatt’s garden. And, of course, striking a Mona Lisa pose for Leonardo da Vinci.

Our guide for this tour is an engaging beret-topped hamster who is joined in the final pages by a tiny dino artist. Thumbnail biographies of the artists identify their iconic works, completing this tour of the creative imagination.

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Emily's Blue Period
by Cathleen Daly

Emily wants to be an artist. She likes painting and loves the way artists like Pablo Picasso mixed things up. Emily's life is a little mixed up right now. Her dad doesn't live at home anymore, and it feels like everything around her is changing.

“When Picasso was sad for a while,” says Emily, “he only painted in blue. And now I am in my blue period.”

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Chasing Degas
by Eva Montanari

Monsieur Degas likes to paint the students while they practice in ballet class—they’ve inspired many of his beautiful paintings. But one day he mistakenly leaves his bag of paints in the dance studio and instead takes a young ballerina’s bag, which contains her new tutu for the evening’s recital! And so the ballerina begins a great chase to find Degas before her big night.

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Tell Us a Story, Papa Chagall
by Laurence Anholt

Award-winning author and illustrator Laurence Anholt reviews the life of Marc Chagall. Through the stories that he tells his beloved twin grandchildren, Chagall relates his extraordinary rags to riches journey from a topsy-turvy cottage life in Russia, through the dark years of the war, emerging in the sparkling sunlight of Southern France. Anholt's fine illustrations appear on every page and include reproductions of Chagall's work.

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If Picasso Painted a Snowman
by Amy Newbold

If someone asked you to paint a snowman, you would probably start with three white circles stacked one upon another. Then you would add black dots for eyes, an orange triangle for a nose, and a black dotted smile. But if Picasso painted a snowman…

Greg Newbold’s chameleon-like artistry shows us Roy Lichtenstein’s snow hero saving the day, Georgia O’Keefe’s snowman blooming in the desert, Claude Monet’s snowmen among haystacks, Grant Wood’s American Gothic snowman, and Jackson Pollock’s snowman in ten thousand splats. Our guide for this tour is a lively hamster who—also chameleon-like—sports a Dali mustache on one spread, a Van Gogh ear bandage on the next.

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Vincent Paints His House
by Tedd Arnold

Vincent is ready to paint his house. The only problem is choosing the color. He thinks white would be nice... until the spider convinces him that red is better. Red looks great, but the bird thinks blue would be best. Vincent likes blue too. "Stop!" says the mouse, because the mouse prefers green. Before long, Vincent has a list of requests: the termite wants orange, the caterpillar loves yellow and the ladybug insists on purple. With a little creativity—and a lot of color—Vincent does a brilliant job!

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Edward Hopper Paints His World
by Robert Burleigh

As a boy, Edward Hopper knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up: on the cover of his pencil box, he wrote the words EDWARD HOPPER, WOULD-BE ARTIST. He traveled to New York and to Paris to hone his craft. And even though no one wanted to buy his paintings for a long time, he never stopped believing in his dream to be an artist.

Edward Hopper's story is one of courage, resilience, and determination. In this striking picture book biography, Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor invite young readers into the world of a truly special American painter.

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Cézanne and the Apple Boy
by Laurence Anholt

Laurence Anholt recounts a wonderful adventure experienced by Paul, a little boy who is named after his father, Paul Cézanne. The elder Cézanne had been away from home for so long that the boy has difficulty recognizing his father when he joins him on a painting expedition in the mountains of southern France. They quickly become fast friends, and the artist takes great pleasure in painting a portrait of his apple-cheeked son.

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Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky
by Barb Rosenstock

Vincent van Gogh often found himself unable to sleep and wandered under starlit skies. Those nighttime experiences provided the inspiration for many of his paintings, including his most famous, The Starry Night. Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime--but he continued to pursue his unique vision, and ultimately became one of the most beloved artists of all time.

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Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!
by Jonah Winter

Pablo Picasso may have been one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, but that doesn't mean he painted what people wanted him to paint! In fact, some people hated his paintings, and called them "ugly!" and "terrible!" -- something many kids can relate to. But Picasso didn't listen to all those people, and kept on working the way he wanted to work, until he created something so new, so different... that people didn't know what to say!

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If Monet Painted a Monster
by Amy Newbold

Edward Hopper’s monster lurks outside the nighthawks’ diner. James Whistler’s monster rocks in her chair. Monsters invade masterpieces by Dorthea Tanning, Paul Cezanne, M.C. Escher, Jean Michel Basquiat, Giuseppe Archimboldo, Henri Rousseau, Franz Kline, Frida Kahlo, and many more!

Our guide for this romp through re-imagined masterpieces is an engaging hamster. Thumbnail biographies of the artists identify their iconic works.

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Little Frida: a story of Frida Kahlo
by Anthony Browne

Following a bout with polio at the age of six, Frida Kahlo's life was marked by pain and loneliness. In real life she walked with a limp, but in her dreams she flew. One day her imagination took her on a journey to a girl in white who could dance without pain and hold her secrets, an indelible figure who would find her way into Frida's art in years to come. Inspired by Frida Kahlo's diary, Anthony Browne captures the essence of the artist's early flights of fancy and depicts both Frida and her imaginary friend in vivid illustrations evoking Kahlo's iconic style

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Diego Rivera: His World and Ours
by Duncan Tonatiuh

This charming book introduces one of the most popular artists of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera, to young readers. It tells the story of Diego as a young, mischievous boy who demonstrated a clear passion for art and then went on to become one of the most famous painters in the world.

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Magritte's Marvelous Hat
by D.B. Johnson

When painter Magritte, depicted as a well-dressed, floppy-eared dog, buys a playful--and mysterious--hat, his painting enjoys a burst of creativity. Inspired by the art of French surrealist painter René Magritte.

This delightful picture book captures the playfulness and the wonderment of surrealist art. Four transparent pages add yet another level of surrealism to the illustrations as pictures can be altered with the turn of a page.

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The Artist Who Loved Cats: The Inspiring Tale of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen
by Susan Schaefer Bernardo

When Antoinette notices a little bronze cat in the window of her favorite Parisian antique store, she begs the shopkeeper Monsieur Arvieux and his clever cat Noir to tell her all about the artist.

The Artist Who Loved Cats is a picture book biography of artist Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, the creator of iconic French "Le Chat Noir" posters.

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About the Author

Kelcey has been working at EPL since 2015. She enjoys reading YA novels, traveling, crafting, and hanging out with her two three-legged cats. When she isn't at EPL, she can be found having competitive board game nights with her family or seeing the newest movie at the local theater.