Colors! Lines! Shapes! Patterns! Art!
Great but simple picture books about artistic concepts, and making and appreciating glorious art.   Print this list Print this list

Contributed by Emily Lloyd

To be an artist /
Ajmera, Maya.
"To be an artist means expressing yourself in many different be an artist means drawing and designing..." A short book with pictures of children around the world making and sharing art, whether drumming and dancing, weaving baskets, painting, or acting in a play.
Children's Nonfiction BookNX633 .A36 2004
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Spiky, slimy, smooth : what is texture? /
Brocket, Jane.
This book's lush photo close-ups will inspire readers to spend a whole afternoon (or preschool class) together exploring amazing textures. A solid preschool-level intro packed with good vocab ("Look at all these different squash! Some are plain and smooth. Some are knobbly and warty. And some are curvy and lumpy"..."Raw eggs are wobbly and runny and slimy". Read it, then touch ALL the things!
Easy Fiction 612.88 B 2011
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Spot it! : find the hidden creatures /
Chedru, Delphine
This is an "I spy" book like no other. Instead of looking for something in a pile of stuff, it asks the reader to find something hiding inside a repeating pattern...which requires even closer looking. It's a challenge and a joy, clever, bright, and vivid. (See also: Spot It Again, a second helping--though it includes lift-the-flaps which I think detract from the experience of being immersed in patterns a bit)
Easy Fiction GV1507.P47 C44 2009
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Perfect square /
Hall, Michael, 1954-
"Perfect Square"=perfect book. Hall's square is perfect on Monday, then gets holes punched in it...and is perfect again, transformed into something new (a fountain!). Then it gets torn...and is perfect again, and so on. A beautiful book about change and transformation and how there are no mistakes in art (and life?), just new opportunities to reimagine.
Children's Fiction HALL
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Shrinking mouse /
Hutchins, Pat, 1942-
The perfect book for introducing perspective: a bunch of animal friends notice that when of them leaves their wood and travels across the field, she "shrinks"--and are very relieved that she grows "normal-sized" again upon her return.
Easy Picture BookHUTCHINS
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The great art treasure hunt : I spy red, yellow, and blue /
Kutschbach, Doris.
An I-Spy-like pore-over book that asks kids to look closely at several well-known works of art, and briefly addresses how different colors work in art ("yellow is warm")
Easy Fiction N7440 .K884 2013
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If rocks could sing : a discovered alphabet /
McGuirk, Leslie.
Sometimes art is about the way we choose to see things, about having new eyes. Leslie McGuirk found rocks shaped like every letter of the alphabet! A great read before a nature walk to hunt for good rocks (another great one is "If You Find a Rock," but that's more rocky than arty).
Easy Picture BookMCGUIRK
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Oooh! Picasso /
Niepold, Mil.
A bit more challenging and abstract than the others on this list, but will still work with young ones. It looks at Picasso's sculptures, not paintings, and it does so bit by bit--"What is this?" it asks, showing a portion of a sculpture, then "What is this?", showing another portion, until it reveals the whole. The text is simple but imaginative and poetic: "What is this? I am a tin moon hooked to the night sky...I am a lollipop dreaming." Niepold also has an "Oooh! Matisse" book, but it's a little obtuse for this age group (or mine).
Easy Fiction HD9993.E452 T356 2009
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My dog is as smelly as dirty socks : and other funny family portraits /
Piven, Hanoch, 1963-
This one is sure to inspire an art project in your little one (also great to read to a classroom for an art project, preschool-2nd grade). Pivens's portraits are part-drawing, part-object-assortments: since the dog is as smelly as dirty socks, a dirty sock stands in for his ear, etc. Smart and fun.
Easy Picture BookPIVEN
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The dot /
Reynolds, Peter, 1961-
The cover makes it look a little "precious" or cheesily inspirational, but The Dot is a solid classic about the way we see ourselves and the art we make. Vashti, who says she can't draw, is shown in a breathtakingly simple and kind way by her art teacher that she can. She passes the lesson on.
Easy Picture BookREYNOLD
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Look! look! look! at sculpture /
Wallace, Nancy Elizabeth
A group of mice investigate an abstract sculpture. They look at the sides and the back, because it's important to see all sides of a sculpture. They talk about the different ways it makes them feel, and the shapes they see in it. They talk about the texture, and how it looks like it's made with heavy slate. A good intro to encountering abstract art in other mediums, too.
Easy Picture BookWALLACE
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An eye for color : the story of Josef Albers /
Wing, Natasha.
Imagine an artist who was so intrigued by and in love with color that he decided to paint almost nothing but squares for the rest of his life! "In 1933, Josef was invited to teach in America. His goal was 'to open eyes'..." "One color stepped away...another popped forward..." Unsurprisingly but happily vivid illustrations introduce the concept of how colors impact (or speak to) each other.
Easy Fiction N6888.A5 W45 2009
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Mousterpiece /
Zalben, Jane Breskin.
Janson is a mouse who lives in a museum, and one day she wanders into the modern art section..."and her little world open[s]." "Mousterpiece" introduces (but doesn't name, except in the back matter) a good number (22!) of famous modern artists and techniques in a friendly way: Janson paints her own pictures in styles inspired by the art she sees ("in dots"=a portrait of a mouse, Seurat-style; "in squares, circles, triangles"=Picasso, etc). The very simple language describing movements and artists without naming them is really nice--it means the text doesn't get bogged down, instead focusing on Janson's joy in discovering all the different ways to make visual art (she develops her own style by the end!). The end notes are good jumping-off pieces to studying individual artists and movements.
Easy Picture BookZALBEN
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