Monday, July 5, 2010

Winning Kids: Little Nippers Top 10

Little Nippers Top 10
by Michelle Berg

This month, I searched for entertaining books that would introduce children to the world’s most influential artists and inspire them to create their own works of art. I tried to find books that represent different techniques so the list can be used for teaching purposes in school or at home. Subject matter includes Surrealism, Impressionism, Pop Art, and Abstract Expressionism to name a few. Most of the books listed below are about specific artists. Two, however, are simply about the act of creating art itself. This assignment led me through quite the journey. My kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about fine art and, in the process; we’ve discovered many artists unknown to us. I hope this research will benefit other Moms and teachers as well.

10. Suzette and the Puppy; A Story about Mary Cassatt

Written by Joan Sweeney. Illustrated by Jennifer Heyd Wharton. Ages 4-10. Suzette and the Puppy is a beautiful depiction of a famous American artist and her well-known masterpiece. This story features The Little Girl in the Blue Arm Chair and how this painting came about. Additionally it introduces a truly magical time in history when artists were discovering Impressionism.
9. Degas and the Little Dancer

Written and Illustrated by Laurence Anholt. Ages 4-8. This is a touching story of how Marie (a young model) met Edgar Degas and became the most famous dancer in the world. Laurence Anholt gracefully weaves Degas’ actual work in this heartwarming story that describes the trials and tribulations of both model and sculptor. A book most certainly worthy of attention!
8. Jackson Pollock; Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists

Written and illustrated by Mike Venezia. Ages 4-8. It’s not easy to make a non-fiction children’s book about art interesting but Mike Venezia pulls it off with gusto! This book offers a light-hearted biography about Pollock and ties it in with silly cartoons, brief facts and 13 full-color reproductions of his work. The books strength is the cartoons. It adds a humorous touch to a subject that might bore young readers. This book is only one in a series. The Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series covers Picasso, Monet, Da Vinci and many more. They all serve as an excellent introductory to the world of art.
7. Ish

Written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Ages 4-8. Children sometimes get frustrated when they can’t draw things exactly the way they appear. Often times, this frustration can prevent them from even trying and stunting their creativity. This book teaches them to look beyond their frustrations and just create! Ish is a story of a young boy who loved to draw. Until, one day, a careless criticism halted his enthusiasm and he stops. But thanks to his younger sister’s theory of “ish” he was able to sidestep his doubts and find a way to draw again!
6. Dali and the Path of Dreams

Written by Anna Obiols. Illustrated by Subi. Ages 4-8. Step into the magical world of Salvador Dali, where there are long-legged elephants, melting clocks and enchanting people. In this dreamlike tale the author tells the story of young Salvi in true surrealist fashion! Here, the reader encounters all the charming characters that later dominates his artwork. This book is a wonderful introduction to Surrealism and the imaginative work of Salvador Dali.
 5. Touch the Art: Feed Matisse’s Fish

Written by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo. Ages 4-8. The Touch the Art board book series features great modern artwork from the 20th century and also includes a textured touch space for interactive fun! Feel the scales of Matisse’s fish, tug the braid of Modigliani’s hair and trace the glasses on Grant Woods famous American Gothic masterpiece. The interactive element is an exciting way to introduce young children to the world of art. Touching the art makes it appealing to the naturally tactile oriented young audience. The lively, rhythmic narrative mentioning key elements of the each work makes this book my favorite in the series. Check out other titles: Touch the Art: Make Van Gogh’s Bed; Touch the Art: Count Monet’s Lilies; Touch the Art: Pop Warhol’s Top and many more.
4. Uncle Andy’s; A Faabbbulous Visit with Andy Warhol

Written and Illustrated by James Warhola. Ages 4-8. This book is based on a true story about the authors visit to his famous uncle in August of 1962; the year Andy Warhol introduced the world to his soup can paintings. As the author spends time with his uncle he notices how everyday things are turned into art. There are paintings of money, pop bottles and many versions of those famous soup cans. With his 25 cats (all named Sam), his crazy wigs and the piles of “junk” in his house, this tale of the quirky artist will sure to delight children and reinforce Warhol’s idea that there is beauty everywhere!
3. The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West

Written by Barbara Brenner. Illustrated by Olivier Dunrea. Ages 5-8. The Boy Who Loved to Draw is a picture-book/biography that offers a charming tale of a young Benjamin West who ultimately became America’s first world famous artist. As early as age 7, Benjamin has a passion for drawing. In fact, he is unable to think about anything else. He even takes to trimming the hairs off of his pet cat to make a paint brush! This is a very appealing portrait of Benjamin West that will resonate with young artist everywhere!
2. Macawber

Written by John Lithgow. Illustrated by C.F Payne. Ages 4-8. This beautifully illustrated book is about a squirrel that discovers the wonders of painting. He is quite the cultured squirrel who regularly ventures to the “palace on Fifth Avenue” (the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and through the windows he admires various masterpieces on exhibit. It was on one of these excursions that he discovered an artist painting a Monet which inspires him to create his own works of art! “Using his tail as a brush” he opens himself up to a whole new world! This book is both fun to read and hear! And thanks to John Lithgow, my children now know words like Rembrandt, Monet and “peregrination”! A MUST have for all parents!
1. Frida

Written by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Ana Juan. Ages 4-8. In this picture-book biography, we learn about Frida Kahlo. We meet her as a child. We learn about Frida’s struggles as a young girl with Polio and her horrific bus accident that left her in constant pain for the rest of her life. But more importantly, we learn how art helped her through her struggles and how it alleviated some of her pain. The tale of Frida’s strength of character is inspirational! However, what I loved most about this book was the artwork. While it is not representative of Frida’s work, it’s a great introduction to Mexican folk art. The vibrant colors and unique illustrations capture the attention of even the youngest readers and suggest what can be achieved with a little imagination!
Michelle Berg is a publisher and author for Little Nipper Books. Please visit our website:

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