Friday, March 26, 2010

Art Picture Books for Youth Art Month

March is Youth Art Month. Couldn’t let this month go by without mentioning some of my favorite art books for kids.
Youth Art Month is an annual observance each March to emphasize the value of art education for all children and to encourage support for quality school art programs. Youth Art Month was created in 1961 by ACMI, a non-profit association of art and craft materials manufacturers, in cooperation with the NAEA.  In 1984, ACMI created CFAE to administer the national Youth Art Month program and encourage funding for the program.

Six years ago for part of an Art Volunteer In the Classroom presentation, I chose to read Jonah Winter’s Frida to both a Kindergarten and fourth-grade class and was surprised by the results. In both classes, the students intently listened to every word. They scooted and maneuvered to get a better look at the illustrations. And, the active discussion after I read the book was full of insightful comments and observations. They developed a firm grasp of who Frida Kahlo was as an artist.

All the experts recommend that the main focus of Art Enrichment presentations should be on the conversations about art; i.e. how it makes you feel, what was the artist trying to express in his or her work, can you relate to the painting. Winter's picture book did everything necessary to get the kids experiencing the work of Frida Kahlo. All that was left to do was fill in a few biographical facts. That day, I experienced the magic of lyrical, polished writing and lively, unique illustrations in harmony that creates an inspiring and memorable picture book.

Though an art project wasn't necessary, the students drew their portraits with images of their dreams and passions floating around in the backgrounds.

Some recent books that I have found that are perfect reads for Art Appreciation presentations:
The Vermeer Interviews Conversations with Seven Works of Art
By Bob Raczka
Millbrook Press 2009

Love this latest book by Bob Raczka. Bob’s books always look at art in an unique perspective; this time from the painting’s point of view. I learned so much by the way the text was written. Who knew there was so much to discover in a Vermeer painting?

In Her Hands : the Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage
By Alan Schroeder (author), JaeMe Bereal (Illustrator)
Lee and Low Books  October 2009

In this window into Savage’s early experiences as a child and artist, children connect with the passion and story behind her work. Wonderful to see a new picture book biography about a sculptor and the Harlem Renaissance.

Just finished reading The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova and it might be my new favorite book. If you like painting with a late 1880's back story mixed with a few love stories and a mystery, put it on your must-read pile.  


Gretchen Woelfle said...

Ana Juan's illustrations in Frida are wonderful, but they are not Kahlo's art. I wonder if the kids realize that that they are not "experiencing Kahlo's art," but something "in the style of." I think it's an important distinction. I look forward to reading the Vermeer book, which seems to take a different tack.

Anna M. Lewis said...

Good point. I'm usually a stickler for the actual works being represented. In the many readings of Frida, I hadn't even thought of that. Interesting.

For the AVIC presentations, a copy of the painting is always brought in --- maybe that helps.

Don't get me started thinking about the illustrations in some picture books that don't allow the kids to experience the artist's work or style... Interesting.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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