Children’s picture books make the best art projects. Sometimes I use the illustrations for inspiration, other times, I read the book to the class and create an art lesson around it. If I read a book, it’s mostly fiction, but every now and again, a non-fiction book makes a perfect read-aloud.
Here are my favorites with their accompanying art lessons:
There isn’t an Eric Carle picture book that isn’t perfect for the classroom, but year after year, I return to Mister Seahorse. I adore the illustrations and children adore seahorses. It works all around. I’ve done a few adaptations of a Seahorse project and all are favorites. The only thing I insist on? Glitter!
One Crayola Short has a great watercolor collage Seahorse tutorial.
I think I Can, I Think I Can has another Seahorse project that uses tissue paper (no tutorial)
Kevin Sherry’s I’m The Biggest Thing in the Ocean is perfect…bold illustrations, simple text and the most adorable subject for an art project. I haven’t read I’m the Best Artist in the Ocean! but it’s in on my must-buy list. For my art lesson, children drew and painted a giant squid on giant paper…lots of fun!
El Sol Art has an adorable painted squid art project.
For an extensive squid tutorial visit This lIttle Class of Mine
Kevin Henkes is my literary hero. I could create an art lesson out of any one of his books…he creates the most perfect read-aloud stories; simple, brief, great page-turns and wonderful illustrations. I adore Birds. The illustrations by Laura Dronzek inspired the Collage Bird Art project above.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a non-fiction book to read in an art class. I pick up the book for the inspiring illustrations, but I also look for great text. If the text is too long then it just doesn’t warrant a read-aloud session.
Chameleons Are Cool: Read and Wonder has the best illustration to demonstrate watercolor techniques: splatter painting, salting technique, wet-on-dry, wet-on-wet, etc. It’s a buffet of watercolor! For my older students, I used waterproof markers, liquid watercolor paints and watercolor paper but to simplify it for younger children, you may want to opt for crayons or oil pastel and regular paper with watercolors. Here is my Watercolor Chameleon inspired by the book.
Wow! America just might be my favorite book for art inspiration. Unfortunately, it is out of print but you might be able to snag a copy through a second hand dealer or through your local library. Neubecker’s illustrations are a perfect base for an art lesson! I did The Grand Canyon, Upstream Salmon, Space Shuttle and Lady Liberty. I’m not the only one who loves this book; Laura at The Painted Paper has done a lesson featuring The Rocky Mountains inspired by this book.
I picked up Raptors, Fossils, Fins and Fangs: A Prehistoric Creature Feature from The Los Angeles Museum of Natural History. As soon as I saw the cover, I knew I had found a lesson for my 4th grade class. The drawings in this book are detailed, fantastical and colorful. A few boys in 4th grade loved the Pre-historic Art project so much, they stayed in during recess and lunch to finish it. And that’s never happened before!
Smarties has a great Chameleons are Cool art lesson.
Paul Gobel’s books inspired my series on Native American Art. He has a few books devoted to the subject (PAUL GOBLE GALLERY: Three Native American Stories is a good one) and I talk about them in my American Indian PDF Art Booklet. The stories are too long to read during art class so I used his illustrations as a guide to introduce American Indian culture to my students.
I hope you are inspired by some of these books. Do you have a favorite book that you use again and again in the art room? If so, please share it with us in the comments.
(Helpful tip: if you leave a URL in the comment section, my spam filter will assume it’s bad and will chuck it into my spam folder. I get 100′s of spam each week and I don’t sift through the list as carefully as I should. So to be safe, just type in the name of the book. Thank you!)
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