You've seen Picasso's quote, many times, I'm sure: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
Not only do I wholeheartedly believe this, but I would consider it to be a significant concept at the core of my approach to parenting. I've had kids' art books on my mind since last week, having chosen some to read on our "art" day during Mama's Spring Break Camp. For small children, I'm much more interested in storybooks that put the child in the position of artist than those that serve to "educate" children on who's who in the world of dead masters. I certainly believe those have a place, but I think they're best saved for children slightly older than my own. The following three books allow the child to envision him or herself as the artist in one way or another, and all are highly recommended by our little family.
Norman the Doorman:
Written by Don Freeman, of Corduroy fame, this story, as far as I'm concerned, is at least as charming as his better-known works (which I do also enjoy.) Norman is a mouse who lives in the basement of a museum where he has set himself up with a home and studio inside of an old knight's helmet. He "works" as the doorman for mouse visitors to the museum who view the extras stored in the basement, but he's an artist by night. The story follows the adventures that ensue when he anonymously enters the museum's sculpture contest. Norman's position as both the underdog and an "unofficial" artist encourage the reader to identify with him.
I Am An ArtistThis simple picture book serves to expand our idea of what it means to be an artist. Each page begins with "I am an artist when..." followed by a statement such as "I look through a sun shower for a rainbow." Without explicitly saying so, it explores the possibility that being an artist is as much about perception and experience as it is about technical skill--an idea that holds much value for small children who simply don't have the coordination or practice to produce what might be considered "great" pieces of art. The style and color schemes of the images encourage repeated observation.
Harold and the Purple Crayon
I almost feel silly even mentioning this book because I'm sure you're familiar with it, but who knows--I know even with all of my experience studying English, there are plenty of "classics" I've never read. Harold and the Purple Crayon is very special to me as it is a component of some of my favorite memories from elementary school. They happened not in the classroom, but in the library, sitting between the shelves reading whatever book had recently caught my attention. I distinctly remember looking over and over at this book--the simple purple line drawings are as vivid in my mind as they are on the page today. Harold, for the uninitiated, is a boy who draws the world of his imagination with a single purple crayon. What you may not know (I didn't until a couple of years ago) is that there are several other Harold stories as well, and they're available as a little anthology.
We have other stories that are art-related in some way, but none that quite do what I think these stories do. I'd love to add more to our list of favorites. What children's art-themed books do you recommend?