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Our top books to inspire young artists

At Lovemybooks we feel that encouraging creative activities (including music, dance, drama and art) at home and at school is vitally important and our activity pages always include many ideas for imaginative responses to stories. Here we have created a new list focusing on the visual arts.

In our brand-new collection, you will find books to encourage children to have fun with art activities, develop the confidence to be creative, experiment and express themselves. There are books which explore colour and pattern in the world around us, make links between colours and feelings and others  which show how through drawing and painting children can create imaginary worlds and have virtual adventures. We have also included books about artists and art works which may inspire gallery visits, prompt art activities, lead to imaginary exploration of the stories behind the pictures or even encourage children to (virtually!) step inside them.

The Artist   
Ed Vere, Puffin

A brave and passionate young artist, full of ideas, hatches a plan to share the joy and beauty she sees in the world. She sets off for the big city and in no time her creations adorn the walls of the tallest buildings and people come from far and wide to see her work. But one day she makes a mistake. Embarrassed and discouraged, she stops painting; will anyone be able to persuade her to continue?

With a warm and encouraging message for young artists everywhere, this is a delightful picturebook celebrating the messy beauty of our world and what it means to be an artist.
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An Artist’s Eyes             
Frances Tosdevin, illus. Clémence Monnet
Frances Lincoln
Age 5-7

Jo goes for a walk with an artist and is amazed by the way she sees colours; the indigo of evening in the sea, the lime of gooseberries in the forest. Will he ever be able to look at the world the way she can? With encouragement, open eyes and an open mind he begins to notice more, including swirly circles of sunshine and sparkly squiggles in the sea. This is a story which shows there is no one way to see like an artist. It may encourage conversations about the colours and patterns in the world around us.

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Colours, Colours, Everywhere
Julia Donaldson, Sharon King-Chai(illus), Two Hoots
Age 2-5

A little girl opens her paint box and wonders what to paint today. She starts with a blue tree frog and in no time at all the two of them are off on an adventure with a hot air balloon, oceans, islands, helicopters and lots and lots of colours. This is a concept book with a difference; a story celebrating colour in the world around us. It is a  lovely book, with a rhyming story and beautiful illustrations, with flaps to lift and holes to peep through. It is likely to encourage talk about colours, colour collections of objects or cut out from magazines and of course painting too.  

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The Colour Monster
Anna Llenas
Age 3-5

A little girl introduces her friend the colour monster, who is very confused, because his colours are mixed up together. She tells him this is because his feelings are mixed up too and offers to help him sort them out into bottles. Each double page is devoted to a colour themed feeling with for example yellow for happiness and blue for sadness. The monster’s feelings are happily sorted out by the end of the book, with the colour monster turning pink and feeling full of love. A story likely to encourage experimentation with colour and discussion about feelings.

The Colour Monster is available as a board book, a paperback and as a paper engineered book with spectacular pop-ups.

Read a parent’s comments here

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The Day the Crayons Quit       
Drew Daywalt, illus Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins
Age 5-9

When Duncan gets out his box of crayons at school one day, he finds a stack of letters waiting for him. They are from his crayons, who are feeling very disgruntled. The red, blue and grey crayons feel overworked, while the pink and beige crayons feel underused. The orange and yellow crayons bicker about which of them should be used for the sun and the black crayon objects to always being relegated to an outline. Duncan responds to their complaints with a wonderfully creative use of colour and young readers may be inspired to experiment with colour themselves.

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The Dot      
Walker Books
Age 5-9

Vashti doesn’t enjoy art club – she feels she just can’t draw. Vashti’s teacher is determined to change her mind and encourages Vashti to make a mark – she angrily does so, jabbing the paper to make an orange dot. Instead of disapproving, her teacher asks her to sign it. Vashti is incredibly surprised when the next day her signed dot has been beautifully framed and displayed on the wall. In no time at all Vashti is determined to produce better dots and creates a gallery of dot themed images. When she comes across another child with no confidence in their ability to produce a picture, Vashti knows exactly what to say. The perfect story to encourage reluctant artists to have a go and develop confidence.

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Watch the story read aloud

Aaron Becker
Age 7+

A young girl, who lives in a sepia world, is bored. She has playthings but no one to play with. She picks up a red crayon, draws a door and escapes! An adventure in a fantastical world follows, complete with a beautiful forest, a walled city, steam punk machines, armed guards and lots of jeopardy. Her magical crayon has a crucial role in the story, for example facilitating a daring escape via the hot air balloon she hastily draws.

The first of a trilogy, this is a wordless picturebook which celebrates the power of drawing an inventiveness to create worlds and adventures. It may inspire children to create their own illustrated adventures perhaps choosing their own magical crayon.

See video here
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Katie and the Starry Night
James Mayhew
Orchard Books
Age 5-7

Katie visits an art gallery with her Grandma. She loves the painting of Van Gogh’s starry night and is looking at it while Grandma falls asleep. The stars seem to be moving, and then they escape from the picture! A magical adventure story in which we step inside five Van Gogh masterpieces with Katie as she searches for a way to catch the stars before the security guard notices they are missing, and Grandma wakes up. An imaginative introduction to Van Gogh’s work, one of a series about different artists and art works by the author.

Watch the story read aloud Katie and the Starry Night by James Mayhew – Read Aloud – YouTube

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Luna Loves Art     
Joseph Coelho, Illus. Fiona Lumbers
Andersen Press
Age 5-7

Luna and her class are off to visit an art gallery, the biggest building Luna has ever seen. Here they come across some iconic artworks including Van Gogh’s sunflowers and Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture ‘Maman.’ Luna notices Finn is feeling sad, lonely and grumpy. Luna’s mum encourages her to be friendly to him and together they discover that art comes in all shapes and sizes just like families. Art works in this imaginary gallery are introduced on the end papers. Another in the series of stories about Luna.

See our activity page for Luna Loves Library Day

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Matisse’s Magical Trail  
Tim Hopgood, illus Sam Boughton
Age 5-7

Matisse is an artistic snail creating drawings while everyone sleeps. Although adults passing by ignore his artwork, one day a little boy called Leo discovers his creations and shows his friends.  The children are very impressed and gather objects for Matisse to decorate. He creates a trail from one object to the next and onto the wall. When their teacher sees the trail, she encourages her class to add colour to it, transforming the school and amazing passers-by.

This is a lovely picture book about creativity and working together, showing how small changes to the environment can have a transformational effect. It may inspire your child be creative themselves and perhaps find out about the artist Matisse (particularly his famous snail collage).

Visit our activity page

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Miró’s Magic Animals
Antony Penrose
Thames and Hudson
Age 5-9

Many years ago in the middle of the 20th century Antony Penrose met the famous Spanish artist Joan Miró when he was a child. Antony’s mother was a well- known photographer and his father was an artist. This delightful book tells us about Antony’s meetings with the artist, including a visit to London zoo, but the book is also a playful introduction to Miró’s work. It is highly illustrated and carefully put together with photographs, reproductions of Miró’s works and illustrations by children.

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See our activity page here

Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City
Rob Biddulph
Age 7-9

Peanut’s dad has disappeared, and she really misses him. she finds a mysterious message from him, and a magical pencil hidden in a box. She discovers whatever she draws with it comes to life. Peanut draws a door, she opens it and ends up in Chroma, a world of colour and creativity.

Peanut discovers a man called Mr White, has captured her dad in Chroma. Peanut goes on a mission with her little sister Little Bit and a boy called Rockwell to find her dad and stop Mr White from destroying all the creativity in Chroma.

Scroll down our family reviews to find one young reader’s response to Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City 

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Tiger Walk
Dianne Hofmeyr, ill. Jesse Hodgson
Otter-Barry Books
Age 5-7

During a visit to an art gallery Tom is fascinated by a painting of a tiger which seems to be watching him. When he gets home, he draws his own tiger picture. That night he dreams the tiger steps out of the picture and takes him on a night-time adventure. Together they travel through jungles, underwater and to icy caves meeting all sorts of animals on the way. Tom is a bit hesitant about these unfamiliar situations but with the tiger’s encouragement confronts his fears and enjoys the experience. So much so that by the end of the book he feels as brave as – a tiger! Perhaps he actually IS a tiger!

Inspired by the famous tiger painting by Henri Rousseau this is an appealing story about overcoming fears. The story is very well written with lovely descriptions and a pleasing pattern and the illustrations are beautiful, making it a great picture book to share. It may inspire trips to art galleries in which children might imagine the stories behind the paintings.

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