31 Days, Children's Books

Introducing Young Children to Art Through Picture Books

I don’t have a strong background in art. I was raised in the pre-Baby Einstein days, after all. Before my college art history class, I could recognize a Monet or a variety of children’s book illustrators (Mercer Mayer, for instance), but that was my extent of art culture. As I raise my children now, I am in awe of the wee ones’ art knowledge. The other day, Ella told me she was drawing a picture that looked like van Gogh. Holy cow! That child came from me? I think it’s awesome that there are so many resources for bringing art and music into our children’s sphere of interest. Yes, a lot of the credit for our art knowledge goes to the T.V. show Little Einsteins, which we stumbled upon by accident in our library’s DVD collection. Now we don’t leave the library without one, and if we do, well, there’s always Youtube.

392176There are some great books that have made my daughter fascinated by art, too. You’ve probably heard of the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Conner and illustrated by Robin Priess Glasser, but did you know that your child will talk to you about Jackson Pollock after reading Fancy Nancy, Aspiring Artist? Or that she will want to cut out shapes and make a picture like the ones by Henri Matisse? (true story). Our favorite book series on art is the Katie series by James Mayhew. It’s about a girl named Katie and her art museum adventures. Our favorite is Katie and the Impressionistsfollowed closely by Katie and the Spanish Princess. These books give readers a feel for a certain era or style in art. If you’re looking for books about specific painters, I’ve heard great things about the “Getting to Know The World’s Greatest Artists” series. The blog Mrs. Picasso’s Art Room has many more great ideas about books on artists.

I’m not set on force feeding art history to my children or anything. It’s something my oldest has become interested in, so I’m going with it. I think it’s fun and I can’t wait until she’s old enough to take really enjoy our city’s art museum.  At this point, I’m doing my best to pick out fun children’s books with quality illustrations. I know quality art is often a matter of opinion, and I want my children to appreciate all kinds. But for now, I try to stay away from elaborate stick figures or those books that remind me of that TV show Rugrats.


We’re going to stick with Jessie Wilcox Smith, Tasha Tudor, Virginia Lee Burton, and other great artists and Caldecott Medal winners and nominees.

What are your thoughts on teaching art to your kids and art in children’s literature? This is a new topic for me, so I’d love some advice.

This is Day 8 in the series 31 Days of Picture Books. To see the rest of the posts, go here.


31 Days, Children's Books

Books for Little Ballerinas

Day 2 of 31 Days of Picture Books is all about books for little ballerinas. (To read the other posts in the series, please go here.)

If you’ve been in the children’s section of a bookstore recently, you know it’s not hard to find books featuring fluffy tutus and the color pink. A current favorite with little girls is the Tallulah’s Tutu series. Then there’s the ever popular Angelina Ballerina (that little mouse has been blown way out of proportion). My four-year-old daughter Ella and I like those books, too. There are some others we love even more, though. I appreciate how most ballerina books teach an important lesson along with the tutus and toe shoes.

I had I Wear My Tutu EvI Wear My Tutu Everywhere!erywhere memorized when I was fourteen, thanks to a four-year-old sister who adored it. I re-memorized it when my daughter got her own copy at age 2. I have to admit, the words are pretty catchy. I now really appreciate the mental image it gives of a ripped tutu. When Ella asks if she can wear hers to the grocery store, I say “Remember what happened to Tilly’s tutu on the swing? Yours might rip on the shopping cart.” Works every time. However, we are not above wearing princess dresses to Publix. A few weeks ago, we did our shopping with a Disney Rapunzel riding in our race car shopping cart, replete with hair extensions (attached to a headband from The Dollar Store). I figure she’s only four once.

Harriet's RecitalMy great aunt gave me Harriet’s Recital for Christmas one year. I really related to the main character, a nervous bear-girl who is petrified of performing on stage. I especially identified with the way she said, “Oh, it was nothing” after the recital. I was just like that as a kid. Fortunately, I didn’t make any major mistakes in piano recitals until I was in high school. At that point, there was no use pretending anymore that I didn’t have a serious case of stage fright.

Susan Jeffers’s The Nutcracker is a beautiful book. I love the perspective from which she illustrates. However, I think The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet by Deborah Hautzig presents the story in an easy to understand yet more comprehensive way. The book is a great one to read before taking your little ones to see the ballet this Christmas.

Ella Bella Ballerina and CinderellaThe entire Ella Bella Ballerina series are our favorite ballerina books around here. James Mayhew does a great job of telling a story such as Cinderella from the ballet background. The illustrations combine pretty ballerinas with a very cute little girl. And Ella is such a perfect name. =)

Finally, if you as a grown up need a crash course in ballet plots, pick up Of Swans, Sugar Plums, and Satin Slippers. I wouldn’t recommend it to children under ten or twelve (most ballets are rather tragic), but it’s helped me have a fairly decent knowledge of the popular classical ballets, and the illustrations are lovely.

Do you have a ballerina book recommendation? My Little Ballerina is always eager for more, and I can’t deny that I quite enjoy all these ballerina books myself. It’s a stage in Ella’s life that I’m clutching onto while it lasts. =)




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