Today I’m sharing our list of Favorite Picture Books about Art and Creativity.
As a creative household with an arts educator mom and designer dad, we read loads of books that dive into themes of creativity, art, and making. I’m always looking for new books, and many, such as The Day the Crayons Came Home, made this list. I also included classics such as Harold and the Purple Crayon that don’t go out of style.
This is the third part of the TinkerLab Gift Guides for games, books, and tools that support creativity, imagination, experimentation, and curiosity…the backbones of invention and innovation. Hours of research and testing have gone into making these lists a valuable resource. If you have any recommendations of products to add, join me over at Club TinkerLab on Facebook. I’d love to meet you.
This list contains affiliate links.
For the other guides in this series, be sure to check out Games that Encourage Creativity and Imagination and Favorite Toys for Builders and Engineers.
Favorite Picture Books about Art and Creativity
Rosie Revere Engineer, Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (ages 4-8)
If there’s a picture book that captures the spirit of TinkerLab, this may be it. It’s the story of young Rosie, inventor of wild contraptions, who becomes frustrated by a naysayer in her life and a flying machine that doesn’t seem to work. Rosie learns to rise up to fight her fear of failure, sharing the meaningful message that effort, iterations, and failure are all part of the invention process. This book has the potential to inspire girls to see themselves in the S.T.E.M field, just like Rosie.
Iggy Peck, Architect, Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (ages 4-8)
By the same authors as Rosie Revere, this is the story of Rosie’s classmate, Iggy, who aspires to be a great architect and can’t stop building things…out of the most surprising supplies. Iggy’s teacher has a phobia for architecture and won’t allow him to create in class. But in the end it’s Iggy Peck’s structural knowledge that saves the day. Invention and imagination, wrapped up in humor and gorgeous 1950’s-inspired illustrations.
The Dot, Peter H. Reynolds (ages 5-8)
This is a delightful story of a girl who says she can’t draw. Her teacher invites her to make a mark and see where it takes her. This story is a wonderful reminder that we are all gifted and capable of great things. We just have to begin. It’s also a testament to the power of supportive teaching, and would be a thoughtful gift for a favorite teacher. If you’re a follower of Carol Dweck’s theory of “Growth Mindset,” you’ll love the message behind this book.
Ish, Peter H. Reynolds (ages 5-8)
This is the story of a young Ramon whose creativity is dashed by a mean older brother. Ramon comes out on top as he learns to celebrate imperfection, a message that all young makers should take to heart. One reviewer says this: Most books don’t bring tears to my eyes–especially not children’s books. ISH is moving because we’ve all had the childhood experience of being told, “NO, you’re not good enough.”
Press Here, Herve Tullet (ages 2+)
This interactive book pushes the boundaries of what a book is all about. Follow instructions to push the dot, and then turn the page to find that you’ve magically divided the first dot into two. It’s in the top 100 of all books sold on Amazon. Tour de Force! If you like the style and energy of this book, you should also check out Tap the Magic Tree.
Christina Katerina and the Box, Patricia Lee Gauch (ages 4-8)
If you’ve ever received something in a big box, and you have small children, you’ll know that the box is probably a thousand times more exciting than whatever came in it. Back when I shared this post about turning a fridge box into a food truck, a TinkerLab reader suggested this book to me. It’s a fantastic story of a young girl who has a big refrigerator-sized box, and how she uses her imagination to turn it into fantastic scenes.
Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson (ages 4-8)
This book celebrates 60 years in 2015! It’s a timeless classic that I enjoyed reading in my childhood. It tells a story of young Harold who goes for a walk on a moonless night with a magic purple crayon. There is no moon, so he draws it. He also draws the horizon and a path to walk along. It will appeal to anyone (yes, adults can enjoy this book as well) who loves adventure and wants to tap into the power of imagination.
Beautiful Oops, Barney Saltzberg (ages 3-8)
I first saw this book in my daughter’s kindergarten class. It’s all about turning mistakes into something wonderful and teaches great lessons not only in art but also in resourceful thinking and flexibility. A wonderful book!
What do you do with an Idea?, Kobi Yamada (ages 3+)
This message of this book is that if we nurture our ideas, they will grow and grow, our confidence will also blossom, and eventually the idea can change the world. A wonderful choice for children and also for adults who are starting new projects and could use a little encouragement.
The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (ages 5-8)
This clever book tells the story of crayons that go on strike, except for green who is happy with his lot. One reviewer says: Out of the many picture books I’ve previewed this summer with an eye to acquiring for the classroom, this is one of the few that has made it to the “must buy” stack. It is a delight from start to finish and I can’t wait to share it with my second graders this fall.
The Day the Crayons Came Home, Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (ages 5-8)
If you loved The Day the Crayons Quit, this highly anticipated companion book is not to be missed. It includes a fun glow-in-the-dark spread and has the same whimsical illustrations. In this story, a group of neglected crayons sends postcards home to tell stories of their woes. Fun and silly. And crayons!
The Book with no Pictures, B.J. Novack (ages 5-8)
This New York Time’s best seller is a humor book that contains no art whatsoever. I’ve chosen to include it in this list because, like Press Here (above), it breaks the expectations of what a book should be about, thereby illustrating the power of out-of-the-box thinking. Plus it’s hilarious and my kids can’t get enough of it.
The Museum, Susan Verde (ages 5-7)
I spent a big chunk of my career as a museum educator and appreciate how the main character interprets the art in a museum through her senses. She doesn’t care what the labels say, and is rather moved to feel joy, sadness, fear, etc. by the works she sees. If you are planning a trip to an art museum, this would be the perfect book to read ahead of time.
Katie Meets the Impressionists, James Mayhew (ages 4-8)
Another book for museum-goers, try to find this book if you’re planing a trip to a museum or about to study impressionist art. Katie visits the museum with her grandmother and is magically transported through paintings to the actual scene in history that the artist painted. It sparks the imagination and teaches art history along the way. If you’re teaching your child or classroom about a certain artist, there’s an entire series of “Katie” books that take the main character to visit various artists in history (Mona Lisa, Van Gogh, Degas) through their art.
Perfect Square, Michael Hall (all ages)
The story starts off on day one with a square, and then each day the square changes little by little until…well, you’ll have to read it to find out how the square ended up. I promise you’ll like it. After reading this book, children will most likely want to start with their own square and transform it just as the square was in the book. A perfect reading/making experience.
The Big Orange Splot, D. Manus Pinkwater (ages 4-8)
When Mr. Plumbeans’ ordinary house is splashed with bright orange paint, he decides a multi-colored house would be a nice change. This was my husband’s favorite childhood book, and my co-workers made a point of hunting it down as a baby shower gift. I had never seen the book before and absolutely love it as a story that encourages individuality and creativity.
More TinkerLab Gift Guides
If you like what you see here, be sure to take a look at our other gift guides for more inspiration for young makers.
Games the Encourage Creativity and Imagination
If you’d like to support creative thinking skills, imagination, and curiosity through play, these games are right up you alley.
See it here —> Games that Encourage Creativity and Imagination
Favorite Toys for Engineering and Building
If you have a young builder who likes to construct things, this is the list for you.
See it here —> Favorite Toys for Builders and Engineers
If you’re looking for the full list of recommended books, art supplies, science tools and more, head over to TinkerLab Resources for our most popular, recommended supplies and tools.
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Rachelle, Thank you so much for the wonderful recommendations in this post. I too promote ways of nurturing children’s natural curiosity, imagination and creativity. I already have some of these books and am immediately ordering more. Hopefully they will arrive in time for my grandchildren to receive them for Christmas. I have an outdoor construction set for each of them and some of these books will be a wonderful accompaniment. I love that you promote such beneficial products and activities. Thank you. Best wishes to you and your family for the holiday season.
You’re welcome, and thank you for your comment, Norah! Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday as well. x
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