The girls received a birthday party invitation earlier this week, and to say that it was met with an enthusiastic display of complete and utter joy would be a gross understatement. They were ecstatic. We’re big fans of birthday parties, but we’re also friends with lots of people that don’t really do big birthday parties, or parties at all. And I completely get that – the flip side is having each weekend of the year filled to the brim with engagements for the under ten set – and no one really needs a social calendar like that. When we do go to a birthday party for a friend it’s a really big deal. And this one is a “Modern Art Magic” party, so the girls did an extra wiggle for that. And that got me thinking about kids books and art – we have quite a few in our book bag that I love on the subject. These books aren’t books about specific artists or particular genres or movements (although we have plenty of those) – these are about making your own art, finding confidence in the things that you make and the way that you make them. They are “doing” books, and I love those best. And one of these will get wrapped up for that birthday party the girls are so jazzed about.
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg is a really fun book that celebrates making the best of things that most might consider “mistakes”. Dig into that recycling bin a bit more often and see what you come up with. Stop tossing out work that’s not exactly what you think it should be. Stand back and look at it again. You never know what might come to you. Perhaps this is why E’s desk always looks like it does, and why I can only throw out things under the cover of night. F’s favorite page is where the bent paper becomes a penguin head – she unbends it and says “the penguin has no head!” Every time.
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds is the story of a young frustrated artist. I was the kid that lived for art class – but I can always remember how many kids would just sit in class, convinced that they couldn’t draw. I think I was lucky to have art teachers that wouldn’t accept that excuse. It’s hard to make art just sitting still doing nothing. Pick up something – anything – a pen, pencil, paintbrush, spray can, mound of clay… something. And make a mark. This book is just as inspiring for teachers. Celebrate something – anything – and who knows where that child might take it.
These aren’t new themes – I can remember one of my favorite books as a child having a similar theme. If you remember elementary school art class, and thrilled to the possibilities that a giant box of crayons provided, then Tomie DePaola’s The Art Lesson is a perfect read for you. Young Tomie’s desire to be a real artist – despite the school rules – is so relatable. And another passionate art teacher saves the day. There’s a time for fairness in school, but never at the price of squashing passion and desire. I painted a giant sized mural of front cover of The Art Lesson – in a stairwell of an elementary school – and I’ve always loved dePaola’s illustrations stories – particularly the biographical ones.
Two more similarly themed books that focus on architecture rather than art are Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck Architect and Nina Laden’s Roberto the Insect Architect. Both Iggy and Roberto have to rage against the machine to follow their passions – but they prevail, and save the day in the process. Both have fantastic collages, and many subtle (and not-so-subtle) references to modern architects and their work. We love both of these books, and read them often. F likes to say the word “architect” – a lot. In fact, she loves saying lots of many-syllable words. One night she was up in her bed chanting “In-for-ma-tion arch-i-tect, in-for-ma-tion arch-i-tect…” like some sort of broken robot / record. Pretty funny sounding coming through the monitor speaker.
Beautiful Oops is a good book from 2+ years – as soon as a kid is old enough not to pull off all the extra things glued into the pages. The Dot is great for kids aged 5-10, but would still be enjoyed by the younger crowd. Vashti makes so many interesting and varied dots, and F likes to “read” the book to me by reading the kind of dots on the page.
The Art Lesson, Roberto the Insect Architect and Iggy Peck Architect are perfect grade school books – longer stories, and one that rhymes (Iggy!), and the illustrations and messages are perfect kids working their way through elementary school
All are perfect gifts for your art loving little ones – and extra perfect for those art parties if you get lucky and land an invitation.
So tell me – what’s your favorite book that gets your creative juices flowing?
Find these titles at your favorite local independent bookstore. Happy reading!