The Art Lover (or books to make/force your kid to love art)

Apr 30, 2017 | Kids Books | 0 comments

I attempted to be that mother who did weekly themes in which my kids would be completely immersed in books, crafts, activities, etc around that theme for a week.  It lasted for one week.  Although that week did stretch on for several weeks so maybe that’s a win?

I follow some pretty interesting moms who do this sort of thing and I don’t understand how they do it.  By the time I get all the books I want out from the library or from the store, the week is over.  Then I have to go find the little things for the craft or the sensory bin and then put it all together.  Forget it.  I will have themed months.

I also tend to get sidetracked – which I think is just fine.  Your child might suddenly show an interest in otters (G’s latest obsession) so you run with it.  Right?

These moms.

You know who I’m talking about.

They probably also have folded laundry and meal plans.

I have baskets of laundry and meal ideas.  The ideas usually turn into take-out.

This is my long introduction into the time I was successful in a themed week and it turned into a whole month:  art!

I won’t lie.  I hope to raise slightly pretentious children who know the difference between a Monet and a Jackson or a DaVinci and an O’Keefe.  My parents used to drag me around art galleries and now I love art.  The lesson here?  Make your kids do things they don’t want to do and eventually they will like it.

One of my favourite things in Toronto is the Art Gallery of Ontario or AGO if you will.  Not only is the building architecturally stunning but it houses fantastic Canadian art from the Group of Seven to Emily Carr to my favourite, William Kurelek.  It’s also a wonderful place to bring kids, believe it or not.  The mandate of the museum and its family membership is to show children art at an early age so they can grow an appreciation for it.  They actually encourage the noisy muppets in their galleries and state this is a part of learning (although you do get the odd glare from old biddies who would prefer to take in their art in silence).  The museum has a kid’s gallery as well as a fantastic Hands-On Centre that has puppets, dress-up clothes, a giant canoe, blocks, puzzles, books and lots and lots of art materials.

I digress from my main point – which is books. I was planning a trip to the AGO to see their temporary exhibit of Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more (which was fantastic!) so I needed George to bone up on his impressionist skills.

Here are some books that got me there.  It was hard to find books specifically about masterpieces geared at toddlers/preschoolers but we do have some.  As well as books about colours so that we could talk about what colours we saw at the museum:


The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

Really any Eric Carle book is fantastic. We have a multitude of them and just when I think we’ve read them all, we discover a new one. Like The Artist who Painted a Blue Horse.

It is an homage to the artist Franz Marc – a German artist who was criticized for painting animals in unusual colours. He eventually was killed in WW1 and a sketch book was found in his pocket along with a letter to his wife outlining his intentions to paint upon his return from the front.

What did we learn?

To paint outside the box

Why I like it:

Like all Eric Carle books the text is simple, the illustrations are simple, albeit bright and striking, and it entranced George. He requests it often and his favorite part is the “I am a good artist’ that bookends the story. Then George asks to paint a picture. A result if you ask me.


A Child’s Introduction to Art: The World’s Greatest Paintings and Sculptures

By Heather Alexander and  Meredith Hamilton

This is a fantastic book to own and refer to time and again as your kids grow. I absolutely love art but sadly I didn’t get a chance to take art history at university. Luckily this book touches on famous works of art and the history/story behind them. So it fills in my gaps of knowledge at a level kids can understand (and their mums!).

What did we learn?

Everything about the world’s most famous art.

Why I like it:

This book is great because it looks at great masterpieces – including many pieces by Van Gogh which came in handy for George’s visit to the AGO.  Although Starry Night was not at our museum, the similar The Starry Night Over the Rhone at Arles was. I was happy that George could recognize the similarities between what we had in the <many> books at home with this piece. I was even more pleased when we saw a Monet and he wanted to inspect it further for frogs. When we got home, we opened up this book to Monet to learn a little more about him.


Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos

The illustrations really make this a whimsical read. It’s absolutely gorgeous and feels almost like a painting.

Swatch lives in a world where colour runs wild but she is wilder still. She discovers she can tame colours and captures them in jam jars that line her room. I love how Denos describes colour: in-between grey (from her kitten’s legs) to rumble-tumble pink (after a thunderstorm) because it really does capture what that colour is (you just saw the sky after a thunderstorm didn’t you?). When she tries to tame the wildest colour of all, a yellow from a dandelion, she discovers that colours aren’t meant to be tamed and should roam free.

What did we learn?

You can’t tame things that are wild.

Why I like it:

The illustrations are stunning and the concept is unique.

Why you might not like it:

There is some controversy in how Swatch is depicted. She often has a headband and paint on her afce which some have taken as appropriating indigenous culture. I don’t know. I see it as a beautiful testament to the exploration of art and colour evoking artists from Jackson Pollock to Monet.


You are my Work of Art by Sue DiCicco

Disclaimer: this one is hard to find in Canada. It wasn’t at my library and I had to order from the American Amazon. But I am happy I did!

Each page has an illustration of a child reenacting a masterpiece: a little girl dressed in a brown robe as Mona Lisa or a picnic in the park complete with a toy ‘pet’ monkey for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. When you flip the verse page over, the real masterpiece is revealed.

While I wouldn’t say it’s the best piece of writing I’ve ever seen, I do love how DiCicco turns a masterpiece into something a child can relate to.

What did we learn?

That George wants to have a picnic with a monkey.  And about art.

Why I like it:

George loves this book and even asks to see Mona Lisa so my mission to raise a pretentious preschooler is working! It’s a simple way of introducing some great art to your kids.


The Mini-Masters Series or Art Series 

by Julie Merber and Suzanne Bober

This is a wonderful series that includes Grand Masters like Monet and Van Gogh to Matisse and Seurat.

In A Picnic with Monet, you and your child are taken through some of Monet’s great works with the context of having a picnic in the garden. The writing is somewhat weak, but I do love looking at all the paintings with George. He always wants to look the horse one or one of Monet’s Water Lilies. I was happy when at the AGO, George stared at one of the Water Lilies for a long time (well four minutes, which in toddler time is practically an hour).

Why I like it:

They are an easy introduction into the world of Grand Masters and art.


As always, happy reading,

Curious in Wonderland

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