There are many books about art for children. However, some are much more useful and interesting than others. In this list we have tried to choose books which have innovative and interesting ways of looking at art.

Recommended by Kate Shepherd, Mandy Clarke, Louise Pfanner and Lynndy Bennett

Children of the World: how We Live, Learn & Play in Poems, Drawings & Photographs by Anthony Asael & Stephanie Rabemiafara hb 9780789322678 $39.95
The authors of this book are the founders of a project called Art in All of Us. Between 2005 and 2009 they visited 310 schools in 192 countries, holding artistic workshops for children of all ages, collecting 25,000 pieces of art! This book is the culmination of that amazing experience. Arranged in alphabetical order by country, each double-page spread shows a drawing and a poem (translated into English) created by local children, a map showing the geographical location of each country and a photograph of local children. There are also very brief snippets telling us which languages are spoken, foods eaten and sports played. The drawings and poems are credited with the child’s name and age (mostly 9-12 year olds), and the poems are also reproduced in the original handwriting and language. At the back of the book are brief country statistics and credits. This is a fascinating, uplifting book promoting cross-cultural understanding and creativity. (7-15 years) MC

Let's Paint by Gabriel Alborozo hb 9781743313695 $22.99
An encouragement to have fun with art. Don't be afraid of getting it wrong. There is no wrong!

Picture This Perception & Composition by Molly Bang pb 9781587170300 $22.95
A brilliantly simple introduction to visual structure and composition centred around the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Molly Bang is a children’s book illustrator, she uses simple cut-out shapes to tell the story and at the same time discusses the difference to the picture if another shape or colour or position on the page is used. It is fascinating reading for adults or secondary students and the ideas could easily be adapted for use with primary students. KS

Renoir and Me by Mila Boutan pb 9781408123843 $24.99
This is a fascinating look at the types of paintings created by Jean Renoir, the famous Impressionist painter. The discussion centres around the warmth and intimacy of so many of Renoir’s paintings and how this was achieved by the artist. His unique style is also contrasted with the work of some of the artists who painted in about the same period. The text also gives some of the details of Renoir’s life and family. (9 – 15 years) KS

The House That Sonabai Built by Vishakha Chanchani & Stephen P Huyler (photographer) pb 9789350466278 $22.00
This picture book tells the true story of Sonabai, married at a young age and living in a small village in India. Forbidden by her husband to go to the markets or socialise with neighbours, she was very lonely and started making animals, birds and people from clay for her young son. She used ground spices, leaves and vegetables to colour her creations and started decorating the walls of the house; her home became her sculpture studio and, then, an art gallery. She created a lattice framework from bamboo sticks, then coated the bamboo with a thin layer of clay. She installed the lattice between the pillars of her verandah, then painted it and decorated it with birds and figures. The light filtering through into the house was now soft and dappled and transformed the house into a magical place. When four people from the centre for arts in Bhopal stumbled upon this wonderland, shy Sonabai became famous and travelled all over India exhibiting her work, conducting workshops and inspiring others to experiment and create. (9-12 years) MC

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers (illus) hb 9780007513758 $24.99 pb 9780007513765 $14.99
Drew Daywalt has come up with a delightfully different idea for this picture book. Duncan wants to do some colouring but when he goes to take out his crayons he finds a pile of letters all voicing the crayons’ complaints about the way they are being used. Red writes that he is worn out with being used so much to colour fire engines, Santas, apples and strawberries. Grey is tired of colouring huge animals like elephants and whales. White feels ignored while Black is sick of only doing outlines. Blue is so short and stubby that it desperately needs a break. And poor pink is hurt because it hasn’t been used all year. This is great fun but it also makes us think about how we use colours and our preferences. The letters inspire Duncan to do a very bright lively picture using every single one of his crayons in ways that would make each of them much happier. (5 – 8 years) KS

Children’s Book of Art: An Introduction to the World’s Most Amazing Paintings and Sculptures DK hb 9781405336598 $29.99
An excellent introduction to examples of art and sculpture around the world. It looks at art more or less chronologically and covers Early Art, through the many periods including Romantic, Baroque and the various modern art movements including Impressionism, Surrealism and Abstract Art and, finally, sculpture round the world. Fascinating for browsing or for following through a particular movement. In addition there are descriptions of how a particular technique such as frescoes, or mosaics or oil painting came about, and activities for children in their use are also suggested. (10 – 15 years) KS

My Art Book: Amazing Art Projects Inspired by Masterpieces DK hb 9781405363372 $19.95
The book is, I think, more helpful than its title would suggest. It shows a variety of different works of art in different styles, and gives suggestions with step-by-step instructions showing how children can create their own art using the same technique. Techniques include mosaics, collage, sculpture, pastels, prints, screen prints and oil paints. Includes a Glossary and an Index. (7 – 11 years) KS

You Can Draw Anything by Kim Gamble pb 9781742377988 $9.99
Generally I find it really difficult to recommend ‘how to draw’ books. Kim Gamble’s You Can Draw Anything is the only book of this type that I would recommend, for anyone, child or adult, who would like to learn how to draw pictures. Anyone who likes children’s books will know Kim Gamble’s art through his picture books and the Tashi novels, and the magical quality he adds to any book that he illustrates. You Can Draw Anything makes it looks easy; the author assures us that drawing is not difficult, but you need to know how to see. With clear, comprehensive, well-illustrated instructions, Gamble takes us through basic steps, techniques and different styles. Quite complex concepts, like depth and perspective, are made crystal clear, and reasonably difficult techniques like cross hatching and tonal shading appear, if not easy, quite manageable. This is a book that you can take with you through childhood to adolescence and adulthood - the author’s generosity and confidence that, with seeing and practice, you can draw anything, is infectious, and makes this a remarkable book.   Louise Pfanner

Leonardo da Vinci for Kids : His Life and Ideas by Janis Herbert pb 9781556522987 $31.00
This book describes in detail the life of Leonardo da Vinci and his amazing inventions, his engineering designs, and his wonderful paintings and sculptures. There are descriptions of his interests in nature, in anatomy and in science and these are accompanied by extensive use of photos of many of Leonardo’s sketches, paintings and designs. There are also suggested activities related to Leonardo’s interests. (11 years up) KS

Amazing Optical Illusions by Illusionworks pb 9781552979624 $9.99
This book is a great introduction to the world of optical illusions, it features thirty of the world's most startlingly tricky images, rendered in photography, art and CGI. It includes examples of every type of optical illusion: Ground/field reversal images where one shape switches into another and back again; dazzling graphic patterns; enigmatic objects; some Escher, and shapes that somehow change before your eyes. Each illusion is clearly explained, providing a fascinating insight into the science (and psychology) of perception. Splendid for all ages!     Lynndy Bennett

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd hb 9780761172192 $32.95
Fascinating from the very first page. Kidd engages our attention through humour, anecdote and the inventive design of each page. He explains that graphic design is problem solving. Everything needs to be designed and when we try it ourselves, we start to appreciate the thought and effort it takes. The cover of the book, a large red stop sign containing the word GO rather than STOP, is especially eye-catching. The book is divided into five chapters: Form, Typography, Content, Concept and 10 Design Projects. Throughout, the book is set out in a very eye-catching way, continually making us think about why the design was done that way. This is an excellent introduction to the world of Graphic Design. (9 – 15 years) KS

Inspirations: Art Ideas for Primary and Middle Years by Ann MacArthur pack 9781863665865 $65.95
This pack contains a marvellous range of images of contemporary, modern and traditional artworks from Asia. On the back of each image there is background information as well as suggestions for looking and making activities for students, for discussion and for cross-curricular activities. The specific arts activities have a variety of approaches designed to support different learning styles. Images include works from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Persia, Philippines and Vietnam. (11 years up) KS

Faces by Zoe Miller & David Goodman hb 9781854379924 $25.95
This is a fascinating book. It contains nothing but faces, and these have been created through the imaginative use of paint, collage, printing, or sculpture, but most often just from anything that happens to be lying around. This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book – that faces can be made from almost anything, from junk, or kitchen utensils, from stones, from paper scraps, string or tools. Kids will be engaged by the ideas in the book and inspired to put together faces in a very wide variety of ways. They, too, will see faces everywhere. (6 – 11 years) KS

The Art Book for Children 1 by Phaidon editors hb 9780714845111 $24.95
This book looks at the artworks of thirty very different artists, ranging from the Middle Ages to very modern times. It asks children to think about the reasons why the artists chose to paint or create in that style. It explores the various ideas, meanings, roles and functions of art by looking at painting, sculpture, photography and prints, and helps develop children’s understanding of colour, form, texture and pattern. A great introduction to the world of art for children. KS

Art Book for Children 2 hb 9780714847054 $24.95 has a similar format and is just as absorbing. It introduces artworks from another 30 artists in a way that helps children to think creatively. (8 - 15 years) KS

21st Century Art for Kids by Queensland Art Gallery hb 9781921503221 $35.00
Contemporary artists from around the world are asked to share their stories about how they came to be an artist. As well as a photograph of each artist as a child, the artist talks a little about what they liked to do as a child and why they became an artist. This is followed by an example of their art and an example of an activity for children which relates to the style of art. There are contemporary artists from Mexico, Japan, France, Germany, Benin, Canada and China, as well as a number of examples of artists from Australia, including Indigenous artists. (9 – 13 years) KS

Surrealism for Kids by Queensland Art Gallery hb 9781921503344 $25.00
This fabulous book contains double-page spreads with a brief biography and photo of eight of the major players in the Surrealism and Dada art movements – Breton, Ernst, Arp, Dali, etc. These ‘Meet the Artist’ pages are interspersed with some of the surreal word and picture games that they invented and so loved to spend their time playing. There are lots of wonderfully imaginative activities such as automatic drawing (done blindfolded!), torn paper collage and surrealist collage, frottage (pencil rubbing) and how to make a Dadaist poem. At the back of the book there are pages of landscape backgrounds, collage images and inkblots that can be photocopied, cut out and used to do the activities, which would be suitable for children of 6 years and up. MC 

Looking at Pictures An introduction to art for young people through the collection of the National Gallery of Australia  by Joy Richardson hb 9781408114926 $29.99
Very detailed look at some of the pictures by the great artists of the 15th to 19th centuries. Joy Richardson explains differences in style, influences, approaches, techniques, themes and narrative features of many of the pictures. Her commentary gives an insight into the many beautiful illustrations. For middle and upper school students. KS

Stitching Stories: The art of embroidery in Gujerat by Nina Sabnani pb 9788181469618 $22.00
This is the remarkable story of how two craftswomen have used their traditional needlework to tell stories about their lives while making beautiful narrative art. As Raniben says, “Before I used to stitch just to make patterns. But now I think about what I want to say through my stitches.” Through photographs of her embroidered narrative panels, we can see the story of how she and her family left their village in Pakistan, crossing the harsh desert to live in the Kutch region in Gujerat. Meghiben describes how she and Raniben work together and exchange ideas while photographs show the beautiful work they make through embroidery and applique. The final four pages of the book describe through text and photographs many examples of embroidery work and some of the many styles from particular region. This is a beautiful book giving us an insight into a traditional art and the way it has been become narrative art and a new creative way to tell stories. (10 years up) KS

And Picasso Painted Guernica (translated from French) by Alain Serres hb 9781741759945 $36.00
The book describes Pablo Picasso’s life as a young child through text and also through many fascinating photographs, illustrations and paintings. Picasso showed a prodigious talent at a very young age. The changes in his art styles are described, as well as his passion for painting harlequins, street people, bulls and minotaurs. Most interesting is the way all his former work and influences contributed to his massive work of Guernica, painted as a protest against the bombing of Guernica in Spain, and also against the killing of defenceless civilians in war anywhere. The painting shows so graphically his grief and torment. The book also gives a background to the Civil War in Spain and also describes the way Picasso gradually developed his ideas for this huge painting. Highly recommended as a book giving us insight into how a great work of art was created, and also into the life and work of Pablo Picasso. (11 years up) KS

Paul Klee for Children by Silke Vry hb 9783791370774 $20.00
An excellent introduction to Klee’s life and works and especially how he tried to paint in a childlike manner, how he discovered colour and how he believed that through his art he could create a new world reflecting his innermost thoughts. Throughout the book, there is an abundance of excellent reproductions of Klee’s own work. The book also acts as a guide to help the reader understand the world that Klee was trying to create by suggesting many art related activities inspired by Klee’s own works. (10 – 16 years) KS

Red-Yellow-Blue: Colours in Art by Silke Vry hb 9783791370538 $29.99
This is an exploration of the history of the use of colours in paintings and also of the science of colours and of how colours have been perceived through the ages. Silke Vry has chosen wonderful works of art from various cultures and times. Her use of clear language to talk about colours, to describe their symbolic power and their origins is skilful. She also suggests many interesting experiments and additional activities using colour. (9 – 15 years) KS

13 Art Illusions Children Should Know by Silke Vry hb 9783791371108 $20.00
This collection features artworks that incorporate a variety of methods for tricking our eyes: including trompe l'oeil, clever uses of colour and perspective, Surrealism, and Photo-Realism.

Trick of the Eye: Art and Illusion by Silke Vry hb 9783791370262 $20.00
This fun and informative book takes young readers on a thematic tour of art illusion. From the Parthenon through examples from nearly every major movement and culture, vibrant works of art are revealed to contain visual tricks, puns, hidden clues and just plain deceit. (9 – 15 years) KS

My Big book of Art and Illusion by Silke Vry hb 9783791371436 $36.00
With dozens of beautiful reproductions and an engaging, informative text, this children's book looks at artistic illusions through the ages. From mural paintings dating back to Pompeii through examples from nearly every modern movement, Silke Vry reveals how artists fool their audiences with visual tricks, puns, and hidden clues. (9 – 16 years) KS

Visions by Rob Watson pb 9781863662611 $30.95
This is an interesting and helpful book which introduces secondary students to a range of Asian styles and techniques which have had an influence on European and Australian art and performance. It looks at various artists and the cultural influences behind their work, including a textile designer from Indonesia, a Japanese print maker, Balinese painting and Chinese calligraphy. Many practical activities are suggested, giving students the opportunity to apply these Asian techniques and ideas to their own work. KS

Look! Zoom in on Art!  by Gillian Wolfe pb 9780711220218 $16.95
This is an exceptional book which encourages us to look carefully at paintings and makes us think about the different ways artists paint when they attempt to portray perspective, movement, emotion and many other complex ideas. (8 – 15 years) Also

Look! Seeing the Light in Art pb 9781847800381 $16.95
This fascinating book makes us think about how light is used in a variety of paintings under headings such as dramatic, cold and hot, dappled, reflected and patterns. At the end of the book there are brief background notes to each of the eighteen paintings.

Look ! Body Language in Art pb 9781845071141 $16.95 
This book has a similar format to the other two titles and looks at the way body language is expressed in seventeen famous paintings. (8 – 15 years)

Look! Drawing the Line in Art hb 9781845078249 $29.95
This book shows the importance of line in drawing and how a line can be delicate or strong, can be symmetrical or can capture emotion. It looks at 18 pictures and shows how artists use line in very different ways. (8 – 15 years)

Look! Really Smart Art hb 9781847800107 $29.95 pb 9781847804143 $17.95
This book focuses our attention on the very different clever effects that artists can create. There is the 3D trick that Escher used to create an unbelievably life-like pair of hands that look as though the hands are three dimensional against a flat surface, and the art of perspective which makes David Hockney’s Going up Garroby Hill look as though the road curves down before going up the hill to disappear into the distance. There are also examples of digital computer art by Akiyoshi Kitaoka and the pop-art style of Roy Lichtenstein and many others. (9 – 16 years) KS


Picture Books to demonstrate a Technique

Many teachers use picture books in order to demonstrate a particular technique. This can inspire children to make their own art work using a similar technique. Following are some suggestions:

Night/Raat by Junuka Deshpande pb 9788181484484 $12.00
The illustrations in the book are so striking, just in black and white and grey. The text is minimal with just one or a very few words in English and also in Hindi. However the pictures do tell a story of a bus that breaks down in the forest at night. Two children get out of the bus and they are suddenly aware of all the shadows, the sounds and creatures in the forest all around them. There is a strong sense of wonder at the natural world conveyed by these simple but compelling illustrations. I am sure that children would be inspired by the book to make their own black and white illustrations of the night. (4 – 8 years) KS

Cat and Fish go to See by Joan Grant & Neil Curtis hb 9781894965392 $26.00 
 The text is simple, two friends, Cat and Fish, decide to go to sea to see where the waves go. The story shows their differences as Cat finds life difficult on the ocean while Fish has problems when they go to an island. The striking black and white line illustrations are reminiscent of woodcuts in their striking contrasts and patterns. There are a great variety of patterns and they are done in an amazing number of ways, but all with black and white lines. It is the sequel to Cat and Fish pb 9780734408105 $16.99 Cat and Fish become friends in spite of their differences and decide to live by the beach as a compromise since it is near to land and sea. Illustrated also in black and white line work. KS

Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard & Rebecca Cool (illus) hb 9781921150333 $29.95 pb 9781921720598 $16.95
Isabella’s garden keeps growing and changing with the seasons. The wealth of plants, birds, insects, flowers and people are depicted in bright colours – all outlined in black, giving a very clear and striking outline to the figures and emphasising the colours. KS

Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp retold by Philip Pullman & Ian Beck (illus) hb 9781407120546 $24.99 pb 9781407120539 $14.99
This is a lively, vivid retelling of this very well-known traditional tale. Philip Pullman said he relished the opportunity to tell the tale, wanting to keep true to the shape and feeling of the original while adding something new. Even when reading the story quickly, I could hear the words as though it was being read aloud. Pullman has emphasised the humour of the story as well as its exoticism and its magic and excitement. The illustrations are a delight and are strongly reminiscent of Jan Pienkowski’s work where black and white cut-outs are silhouetted against colourful backgrounds. (5 – 12 years) KS

Luke’s Way of Looking by Nadia Wheatley & Matt Ottley (illus) pb 9781921977725 $16.95
This book is about a boy who sees things very differently from the other boys at school who all dress the same and paint in a similar way. In this world, portrayed in sepia colours, Luke lacks confidence and is told off in art classes for not painting what he sees and for being too imaginative. One day Luke decides not to go to school and instead visits the Art gallery where he is astonished to find a magical, brilliantly coloured world and he is thrilled that he feels so much at home there. He returns to school full of confidence now that he understands that he is not alone in the way he sees the world. The book was first published in 2000 and perhaps now seems a little fable-like in its very clear message. This is a picture book promoting creativity and uniqueness in artistic expression as well as introducing a range of styles. It also invites discussion about the way different people interpret art and gives us an insight into the way different people view the world. (8 – 13 years) KS