family looking at art books
For adults, there seems to be an endless supply of beautiful, coffee-table quality art books, serious works of art scholarship, and breezy, guidebook-type fare in between.
For children, on the other hand, the pickings are slim. Most art books for children are limited to biographies, or focus on turning the children themselves into artists. “Learn to draw” books, kits, and picture storybooks about the lives of great artists dominate the market. In short supply are art books that are both child-friendly and analytical.
Here are some gems that will provide more insight and analysis. These are books to help your little ones think about art—what it is, how it is made, and why it is important.
Art Up Close: From Ancient to Modern by Claire d’Harcourt (Chronicle Books). This thin, oversized book improves upon the typical “I Spy” game by using diverse works of art as the objects of examination. Other titles in this series are Louvre Up Close and Masterpieces Up Close.
The Art of Shapes by Margaret Steele & Cindy Estes (The MOCA Store). Why buy any old book of shapes when you can teach your toddler using this elegant volume of contemporary art from a Los Angeles museum? A sturdy board book, it makes for a clever, inexpensive gift.
A Child’s Book of Prayer in Art by Sister Wendy Beckett (DK Publishing). In this book, the famous globetrotting nun, who’s taught art to the masses on BBC television documentaries, focuses on art appreciation for children. While encouraging children’s spirituality, Sister Wendy does a superb job of analyzing what the artist may have been trying to express, and all in simple, understandable words. Follow up by playing excerpts of Sister’s Wendy’s passionate art discussions on TV or your PC. DVDs are often available at public libraries.
“Art for Children” Series by Brigitte Baumbusch (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). A four-book series originally published in Italy, these small, hardback books do a wonderful job of getting kids to actually examine a picture. Juxtaposing images as diverse as a Peanuts cartoon and a 19th century French painting, these deceptively simple books are ideal for young children who can read, but may also be appreciated on a deeper level by older children. The individual titles are The Many Faces of the Face, Looking at Nature, Animals Observed, and Figuring Figures.
This series is hard to find now, so you’ll have to be creative. Don’t confuse it with a similarly named series by Ernest Raboff from Trophy Press. The latter appear to be famous artist biographies for children, but I have not reviewed them.
Art Is… by Bob Raczka (Lerner Publishing). In only 32 pages and very little text, the author manages to show us exactly what art is. A treat for all ages.
North Port mom Laura Aldir-Hernandez, a graduate of Georgetown and Penn, is active with the Florida chapter of SCBWI and the moderator of Kids Stuff, a critique group for children’s authors at the Peace River Center for Writers.