I’ve noticed a trend lately among the hundreds of children’s books I receive for review: stellar new books for kids about the arts. We tend to promote a lot of STEM toys, books, and opportunities for kids because we’re passionate about science and technology and the digital world our kids will live and work in. But we still love to find great books for kids about the arts that can inspire young painters, musicians, and writers too.
These 6 books for kids about the arts will encourage your littlest ones to try their hand at creativity, or they can be used to supplement your elementary-age children’s school arts programs at home. And if your child is at a school where arts programs are being cut due to restrictive budgets (sigh), these books can help you continue to encourage an appreciation for music, visual arts, and writing.
Plus, we think books about music and art will make great gifts for your kids’ classroom teachers, who may also be searching for ways to bring more of the arts into the curriculum.
Related: The ultimate girls in STEM book of kick-butt Women in Science
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You probably know Edgar Degas best for his paintings of ballerinas, but the book What Degas Saw by Samantha Friedman captures not just his art but his daily life as well. Throughout the book Degas walks the streets of turn-of-the-century Paris, a bustling, vibrant city. Full page reproductions of his artwork are included, with biographical details and info about the paintings.
I’m thrilled to have added Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children’s History of Art by Michael Bird to our library at home. This book is Art History 101 for kids. From ancient cave drawings to famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds exhibit, this book is basically a museum in your hands. Even though it’s a nonfiction book, each artist’s story is told in a narrative style that will appeal to young kids.
Related: They All Saw a Cat: A charming new children’s book by illustrator Brendan Wenzel
Music Is . . . is a board book by Brian Stosuy that introduces very young kids to all the complexities of music. It can be hard, soft, fast, slow, acapella, ensemble, and more. I absolutely love the art by Amy Martin, which not only captures the mood of each page brilliantly but also has an incredibly diverse cast of characters. It’s a fantastic book for kids of all ages, really.
I haven’t personally read Legends, Icons and Rebels: Music that Changed the World, but the reviews are amazing. It’s written by The Band’s Robbie Robertson, his son Sebastian, and music industry execs Jim Guerinot and Jared Levine. Their goal is to introduce a new generation to the greatest music legends of all time: Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash…to name a few. They focus on the innovators and risk takers, with a moral for children that music has the power to change lives. You even get 2 CDs with hit songs from each artist featured. This would make an incredible holiday gift for any tween or teen who loves music.
Related: Are we excited about the newest Mo Willems’ book, Nanette’s Baguette? You bet!
Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston’s newest book, A Child of Books starts with the line, “I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories, and upon my imagination I float.” That lyrical quality extends throughout the whole story, which is all about the adventures a child discovers by reading. Each illustration cleverly incorporates text from classic works of literature into the art. For example, as the narrator is sailing, the water image is made up of quotes from Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver’s Travels. This is fantastically imaginative and smart book that is sure to engage children of all ages.
How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex is a humorous look at how books are, well, made. It covers multiple drafts from the author, a momentary takeover by pirates (who eventually abandon the book because they don’t read), notes from an editor, and lots of slapstick comedy. Ultimately, they decide a book isn’t really a book without a reader, which will, we hope, encourage our child to read more every day.