Art Appreciation 101 for Kids

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Art Appreciation 101 for Kids

Art and kids go together like sand and swimsuits, only less itchy. These books bring art alive for kids ages 5 through 13. Explore modern art as if you're walking through the Met; meet Cezanne, Chagall and Diego in their hometowns while learning about the art movements they inspired. Parents can bring art and African-American folklore together with these books about Clementine Hunter and Horace Pippin. Travel the art world without leaving homeor maybe from your spot on the beach.

Emily’s Blue Period by Lisa Brown
Emily loves art, especially Picasso's. Like Picasso was in his day, Emily is in her “blue period.” She wants to paint in blue because that’s how she feels. The author gives Emily a voice to express her sadness and discomfort over the changes going on in her family after her parents' divorce. Picasso’s works in Cubism and collage are introduced here. 
 
Journey on a Cloud by Veronique Massenot
Inspired by Marc Chagall’s dreamy masterpiece, The Bride and Groom with Eiffel Tower, this fictionalized biography introduces young readers to Chagall’s work and life. It tells the story of Zephyr, a mailman who lives in a mostly blue world where the practical villagers don’t dare to dream or go looking for adventure. Zephyr longs to see distant lands and jumps aboard a cloud to sail over a vast and colorful world, resplendent with beautiful creatures, strange plants and welcoming people, ultimately returning home with a wife. Paintings are based on Chagall’s Modernist works, and the endpapers give interesting biographical information.
 
Cezanne and the Apple Boy by Laurence Anholt
This story of Paul Cezanne, part of Anholt’s Artists series, peeks into the quirky life of the misunderstood, reclusive painter through the eyes of his young son, also named Paul. The elder Paul didn’t live with his son in Paris, opting for the solitude of southern France. Anholt slyly adds several of Cezanne’s famous paintings, including The Card Players and Mont Sainte-Victoire, into the back drop of the book’s airy illustrations of the French countryside where father and son paint and reconnect after a long absence. Kids will appreciate Cezanne’s sunny, colorful paintings in his Post-Impressionism and Cubism styles.

The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan
Henri Matisse became a painter naturally because his mother surrounded him with color and encouraged him to see art everywhere, including in the family’s pigeons’ iridescent feathers. MacLachlan’s tribute to Matisse’s humble beginnings as an artist, and Hadley Hooper’s well-researched simple shapes and print reliefs, make this book an easy introduction to Matisse’s vivid colors and textural style, which came to be famously known as Fauvism. 
 
Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol by Bonnie Christensen
In this biography for young children, readers get to know Andy Warhol as a shy boy in rural Pennsylvania. Often sickly, Warhol's pale, blotchy skin made him an easy target for bullies, but drawing was his refuge. Art school and commercial drawing jobs in New York City gave Warhol the recognition he desperately sought. His unique, bold illustrations became wildly popular and quickly recognizable. Children may gain inspiration from a story where perseverance in the face of adversity pays off.  
 
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
Horace Pippin began drawing at age 3, using charcoal from the stove in his mother’s house. Despite a war injury that nearly ended his amateur art career (he didn’t sell any paintings until well past age 40), Pippin kept painting folk scenes of everyday life in rural Pennsylvania. Painter and illustrator N.C. Wyeth discovered Pippin’s masterful use of color, form and composition, and brought his work to a local art show. Today, U.S. galleries proudly count Pippin as a notable contributor to the Harlem Renaissance and Social Realism styles. 

Diego by Jeanette Winter
This Reading Rainbow and New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award-winner puts simple, biographical text in English and Spanish beneath Winter’s small paintings, done in Rivera’s folksy, colorful style. Any introduction to Cubism, modern art or Social Realism must include works by this prominent Mexican muralist and social activist.
 
Artful Reading by Bob Raczka
Bob Raczka, author of two other books of simple poems for kids, Lemonade and Guyku, combines fine art with the joy of reading.  Masterpieces by Picasso, Jacob Lawrence, and Vermeer depicting a love of all things literary, coupled with rhyming phrases in a Seussical Green Eggs and Ham-style take young readers to the museum without leaving the house.
 
Art from her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead
Clementine Hunter found her passion among the discarded paint tubes, old window shades and glass bottles on the Louisiana plantation where she worked picking cotton and cleaning the Big House. Raised without art lessons or a formal education, Clementine recorded her large family’s hardships and celebrations, as well as the mundane chores and back-breaking work of slaves in the South during the early 1900s. Fortunately for us, her story is told here, and her widely acclaimed folklife artwork can still be seen in galleries across the US. 
 
What is Contemporary Art? A Guide for Kids by Jacky Klein
This book is a must for young visitors to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It’s jam-packed with 70 pieces of contemporary art in the museum, organized thematically by subjects kids lovebizarre beasts, moon rock and scraps of metal and trash, to name a few. A glossary of art terms and artists’ biographies plus blurbs titled “How Did He Do It?” and “In His Own Words” round out a stimulating and inspiring start to understanding what defines contemporary art. 


Bonus in Juvenile Fiction:
Charlotte in Paris  by Joan Knight
A fictional young American diarist, living in France with her artist parents, travels through 1890s Europe and to New York City, meeting famous Impressionists in this short chapter book series. Lovely watercolors and sketches in Charlotte’s journal are sure to make younger readers art-loving Francophiles. (for grades 2-4)