Art Books for the Toddler and Beyond

Josie Leavitt - September 16, 2009

This week has been a tremendous week for books about art for young children.  Amid the boxes that have flooded my store (have I mentioned the tractor trailer truck from Hachette last week that unloaded so many boxes, my staffer kept saying, "This must be a duplicate order"?) I have noticed some downright lovely books featuring art.

For the youngest child, there is a stunning ABC book, My First ABC from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This ABC book is sturdy, and like the best board books, the text is spare and the art is big.  This is not a board book based in snobbery or elitism. It is based on the simple format ABC: a letter and a picture with extraordinary examples. For A there is the Apples painting by Paul Cezanne. K is Mother’s Kiss by Mary Cassatt. P is a peacock from a 1610 painting, Krishna Dancing from the Garden of Delights. Art lovers, illustrators and parents yearning for a little something different will find this book a treasure. Babies will like the pictures, which show different examples of things they might already know. And the pages are just as good to chew as other board books.

For children just a little older there is the artist study book, Monet’s Impressions: Words and Pictures by Claude Monet. This slender, yummy book is something to spend time with. Designed for younger readers with thick picture book pages, each page features a sentence and an art piece. It’s not as simple as the alphabet book, some of the phrases are meant to be puzzled over. For example the phrase "Light spilling everywhere" is accompanied by the painting Landscape at Zaandam. The light isn’t as obvious as it could be, and the painting draws the viewer, making you seek out the warmth of the sun. I don’t know that all kids will have patience for this book, but for parents who take the extra effort and encourage their kids to just look and not get impatient, I suspect this book could become a requested favorite.

Then there’s the "let’s sneak art in" book, Mitzi’s World: Seek and Discover More Than 150 Details in 15 Works of Folk Art. by Deborah Raffin and paintings by Jane Wooster Scott. Mitzi is a charming black and white little dog wearing a red collar, traisping through some really lovely folk art paintings. The objects to find vary from easy to a little more challenging. I particularly like the catchy rhymes that direct the reader on what to search for. Not only are there many things to look, but all the seasons are represented as are different settings, country, farm, city, etc. Kids who might be a little young for the Where’s Waldo books will love this, as will parents and grandparents who favor folk art  There is some really great end matter that explains the different styles of folk art and asks what kind of styles were used in the book. 

Lastly, there is a book for older kids, Looking at Pictures: An Introduction to Art for Young People, Revised Edition by Joy Richardson. This book uses art from the renowned British National Gallery. The layout of the book is from the prospective of filling and organizing a gallery. Children who may be thought of more as inventors will actually pore over this book. There are fascinating details on restoration, repairs and using modern techniques to learn more about each piece. Charlotte Voake has added illustrations throughout to point the reader toward some informational tidbit or art technique. This book is a great sampling of what the world of art history can hold — it’s not just old paintings, there are stories to be told. Each choice of the artist has a reason and they are presented with humor and insight that will make the curious want to know more.

I certainly wish my exposure to the great works of art had started when I was a baby. How lucky kids are today to have such riches before them. And I’m keeping my review copies of these books because they’re everything I wanted from Art History but never got — the fun stuff.

3 thoughts on “Art Books for the Toddler and Beyond

  1. AmyF

    These seem like great art books for kids! I also love Bob Raczka’s books…they are art books for kids that help bring awareness of great artists to them in a fun way. My favorite so far is More Than Meets the Eye. All of his books are on hims website at

  2. Carol Chittenden

    And for pre-toddlers there’s the Candlwick “Art for Baby” (9780763644246), with black and white images by contemporary artists. It’s beautiful, but I do think it’s important to point out to parents that babies are aware of sounds more than visuals, and that supporting language development with LOTS of conversation and reading is the most valuable thing they can give a child in the first three years.

  3. Emily

    A great art series for toddlers is the “Touch the Art” series by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo. I have to say that even as an adult I find these books so much fun!


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