A Picture Book is Worth a Thousand Words…Art Edition

Written by: Jen Stewart

May 5, 2023

The people have spoken (actually one person spoke) and requested more picture books, so naturally I’m happy to oblige! This time I’m going to venture into the art world. As a disclaimer, I am not an art teacher or an  artist. As a matter of fact, a fifth grader recently told me I drew “the absolute worst stick figure” he’s ever seen. I appreciate art, and I love a good picture book, so hopefully I can share some books you can find some use for in your classroom, or just to enjoy!

Picture Books about Artists:

Painter of Polka Dots: Yayoi Kusama by Young-Ji Cho

Painter of Polka Dots Yayoi Kasuma by Young-Ji Cho Japanese artist Yayoi Kasuma uses her art to find freedom from her fears and to express all of the visions running through her head. Want to know more? Head to this page at Tate Kids. Suggestion for use:

  • Refresh your Dot Day activities.
  • Use as an alternative to traditional October pumpkin activities. (Kasuma loves pumpkins!)
  • When you are having a bad day. Who can possibly be sad when there are polka dots?

The Noisy Paint Box; The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock This colorful storybook tells the story of Vasily Kandinsky who didn’t just see colors, he heard them.  Thought to have had a condition called synesthesia, Kandinsky’s bold works are what makes him one of the pioneers of abstract art. Suggestions for use:

The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock
Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan This book is an interesting look at Jackson Pollock’s creative process, which he called “energy and motion made visible.” Suggestions for use:

Books about Art:

ABCs of Art by Sabrina Hahn

ABCs of Art by Sabrina Hahn This is a rhyming alphabet book that introduces art to the youngest of readers. Suggestions for use:

  • On an ipad, use a template in pages and have students create their own art ABC book.
  • Have students choose one of the works of art and “recreate” it as a photograph. Some examples are shown here.

Opposites Abstract by Mo Willems (Is there anything this guy can’t do?) This book (without elephants or pigeons) introduces readers to concepts in art, focusing on, of course, opposites. There are some interesting pairings like inclusive/exclusive, mechanical/organic, and intentional/accidental. Suggestions for use:

  • Opposites Day (Apparently this is a thing. Don’t tell my students it’s real.)
  • Choose a pair of opposite words and illustrate them according to meaning.
  • The book asks the question “Is this…” about each set of words. Write a paragraph explaining why it is or isn’t. Use evidence to support your answer.
Opposites Abstract by Mo Willems

Books to read before you go to an art museum:

Anna at the Art Museum by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert

Anna at the Art Museum by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert

Mayhem at the Museum, a Book in Pictures illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Mayhem at the Museum, a Book in Pictures illustrated by Luciano Lozano
Imagine! Written and illustrated by Raul Colon

Imagine! Written and illustrated by Raul Colon

Read these with your students before a trip to a museum to help them with expectations for visiting the museum. DISCLAIMER: I am the absolute worst at accidentally setting off alarms in art museums. Every. Time.

Do Not Touch the Art MemeIf you can’t take your kids out of the building, you can take them on a virtual tour:

If my polka dots and paint splatters aren’t what you are looking for, there are so many amazing art picture books out there for you and your students. I couldn’t believe the selection and the quality of the books that are available to get the creativity going! Find the art and artists that match your students interests and identities. Introduce them to someone new. Let them try something different. This blog has inspired me to spend some time with my old museum  book friends Claudia, Jamie, and Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, so I’ll leave you with this:    

“To practice any art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. So do it.” – Kurt Vonnegut



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  • Jen Stewart

    Jen Stewart is currently teaching a brand new, project based STEM class at Maxwell Intermediate School. This is her 24th year of teaching. Prior to this year she taught computer science, social studies, and language arts. Jen is a long-time Nearpod PioNear and a level three Nearpod Certified Educator. She is also an Apple Teacher. She has led many PD sessions around the Midwest on using technology to increase student engagement and learning.

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