why people draw: picture books about drawing

Happy Wednesday!

When I worked at the Museum, I had the opportunity to read a great deal of children’s picture books. For the lessons with my Preschool and Kindergarten students, I would always pair up a picture book with one of the exhibitions and the art activity, to stress a point such as a particular subject matter or perhaps an art style or technique. I had a pretty good record with getting books the children enjoyed…but I did go through several books before choosing the one I would read.

As I can already know that I want to get our future little resident into drawing as soon as she’s ready to grab anything to make marks with in her tiny hand–there’s nothing better for me than to watch a kid get lost in drawing! Today I want to share with you some picture book titles and their summaries of books that you can read for yourself and with your kids that are about drawing, line and shape. The latter are not written by me but mostly taken from the book summaries of the Glen Rock Public Library catalog in New Jersey; while some I added on to from amazon.com’s product descriptions.

When available, I’ve also included the School Library Journal’s age recommendation for the book. The School Library Journal (SLJ), is the world’s largest and most authoritative reviewer of children’s and young adult content—principally books. It gives librarians up-to-date information needed to integrate libraries into the school curriculum, and create high-quality collections for children and young adults.

So here we go…

Following are books I have read, own and/or have used for lessons:

Jeremy Draws a Monster
Written and Illustrated by Peter McCarty
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: K to Grade1)

Alone in his room, Jeremy draws a monster. As his creation takes over, Jeremy begins to wonder how he will ever get rid of this monstrous nuisance. He entertains his unwanted guest all day, but enough is enough. Jeremy finally draws him a bus ticket out of town! With a sure artistic touch and more than a dose of humor, Peter McCarty cleverly blurs the line between his own drawings and Jeremy’s, and in doing so subtly questions the line between reality and imagination.

The Pencil
Written by Allan Ahlberg
Illustrated by Bruce Ingman
(SLJ: K to Grade 2)

The creators of “Runaway Dinner” and “Previously” team up to imagine the comical world that comes to life when a lonely pencil starts to draw. “One day that little pencil made a move, shivered slightly, quivered somewhat…and began to draw.”

Draw Me a Star
Written and Illustrated by Eric Carle
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: K to Grade 4)

This is a story of an artist who, from his earliest years, draws. The artist draws a star…then, a tree, a house, flowers, clouds, a rainbow, and the night. In drawing, he discovers not only his art, but his life. Holding on to his star, he creates a world of light and possibility. With his brilliant collage, poignant and powerful in its simplicity, Eric Carle creates an unforgettable story that celebrates imagination and the artist in us all.

Harold and the Purple Crayon
Written and Illustrated by Crockett Johnson
Ages 4 to 8

One evening Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight. But there wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. Fortunately, he brings his purple crayon. So he draws a moon. He also needs something to walk on, so he draws a path. And thus begins one of the most imaginative and enchanting adventures in all of children’s books. The creative concept behind this beloved story has intrigued children and kept them absorbed for generations, as page by page, unfolds the dramatic and clever adventures of Harold and his purple crayon.

Iggy Peck, Architect
Written by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts
Ages 4 to 8

A hilarious, irreverent book about doing your own thing Meet Iggy Peck—creative, independent, and not afraid to express himself! In the spirit of David Shannon’s “No, David” and Rosemary Wells’s “Noisy Nora,” Iggy Peck will delight readers looking for irreverent, inspired fun. Iggy has one passion: building. His parents are proud of his fabulous creations, although his choice of materials sometimes surprises them. When his second-grade teacher declares her dislike of architecture, Iggy faces a challenge. He loves building too much to give it up! With Andrea Beaty’s irresistible rhyming text and David Roberts’s puckish illustrations, this book will charm creative kids everywhere, and amuse their [sometimes] bewildered parents.

Follow the Line
Written and Illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: K to Grade 2)

Follow the line on a journey from the city to the country, from the sky to the ocean, from morning till night. Laura Ljungkvist uses her trademark continuous line style to create the perfect counting book for young children. Each scene contains questions designed to get children looking, counting, and thinking. Each page is packed with colorful, artful objects and animals—and young counters can follow the line from the front cover to the back cover, through each stunning scene.

Follow the Line Through the House
Written and Illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: K to Grade 3)

Open the front door and step inside a house exploding with patterns, colors, and Laura Ljungkvist’s signature line! Young children can follow the line through every room, discovering hidden surprises. From the kitchen with its stocked refrigerator, to the playroom brimming with toys, to the basement with its shiny toolbox, this house is filled with visual treasures. Questions prompt children to count, identify colors, and find matching elements. The deceptively simple geometric art invites hours of observation and helps build important pre-math skills.

Follow the Line to School
Written and Illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist
Ages 4 to 8

Follow the line from the science corner to the library, from recess to show-and-tell. This “Follow the Line” book illustrated in Laura Ljungkvist’s signature line style takes children on a colorful, comforting, and altogether fun romp through the school day. With its unique modern design and engaging interactive text, “Follow the Line to School” is sure to appeal to both new and returning students.

Follow the Line Around the World
Written and Illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: K to Grade 2)

Follow the line from the camels of the Sahara Desert to the blue whales of Greenland, from the giraffes of Kenya’s grasslands to the kangaroos of Australia’s Outback. This “Follow the Line” book—illustrated in Laura Ljungkvist’s signature line style—takes young children around the world to see animals in their natural habitats. With informative facts and a gentle environmental message, “Follow the Line Around the World” is sure to appeal to those interested in taking better care of the earth.

The Art Lesson
Written and Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Ages 4 to 8

Tommy can’t wait to start his art class at school. But once there, he is surprised to find rules! His art teacher wants him to copy her drawing, and he wants to create his own.

Tommaso and the Missing Line
Written and Illustrated by Matteo Pericoli
Ages 4 to 8

In a spare story with a fable-like tone, Pericoli takes readers through an Italian landscape in search of Tommaso’s line—and in doing so takes them along on a journey of discovery.

The Dot
Written and Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: PreK to Grade 4)

With a simple, witty story and free-spirited illustrations, Peter H. Reynolds entices even the stubbornly uncreative among us to make a mark—and follow where it takes us. Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw—she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery. That special moment is the core of Peter H. Reynolds’s delicate fable about the creative spirit in all of us.

Written and Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: K to Grade 3)

A creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right” in this gentle fable from the creator of the award-winning picture book THE DOT. Ramon loves to draw. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins
Written by Rhonda Gowler Greene
Illustrated by James Kaczman
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: PreK to Grade 2)

A line is thin. A line is narrow—curved like a worm, straight as an arrow. Squares, circles, triangles, and many more shapes abound in this lively book. With jaunty, rhyming text, young readers are invited to find different shapes on each busy, vibrant page. Once you start looking for shapes, you won’t be able to stop! It is a perfect book for little ones beginning to distinguish shapes.

And here is a list of books I found while searching for picture books about drawing, that are on my list to find and read:

Kat’s Maps
Written by Jon Scieszka
Contribution by Design Garage Staff
Illustrated by Loren Long, David Shannon & David Gordon
Ages 4 to 8

Kat loves maps! She loves to make maps for everything. Her room, her block, her town, even her heart. When she gives Jack a map it leads to a surprise! After taking twists and turns through Trucktown and going over bridges and under tunnels, Jack finds out what it is. An art show of all of Kat’s maps!

My Best Friend Is As Sharp As a Pencil: And Other Funny Classroom Portraits
Written and illustrated by Hanoch Piven
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: Grade 2 to 4)

This picture book encourages children to be creative and make their own object portraits. It’s a fun activity for home or for the classroom. You can even check out portraits made by other readers in the “kids’ gallery” of author Hanoch Piven’s Web site, www.pivenworld.com—and while you’re at it, send in your own! Learn how to create a funny librarian, a colorful art teacher, or your best friend by seeing how one girl does it in this simple, playful picture book that’s comprised of portraits made of objects. Once the girl has talked about—and drawn—the key figures in her school, she ends with the pièce de résistance—a class portrait!

Gregory and the Magic Line
Written and Illustrated by Dawn Piggot
Ages 9 to 12

‘Take me for a walk!’ cries the line in Gregory’s red pencil. So Gregory draws the line straight, and draws it thick, and draws it thin, and draws it in reds and yellows and blues and mixes them all together. But the line gets bored so Gregory draws squiggles, zigzags, squares, circles and triangles that turn into houses and suns and pyramids and wonderful animals and people with funny faces. Gregory finds himself swooping and diving with the line over more and more exciting scenes, until the line gets tired and Gregory puts it back in the red pencil and says goodnight. A wonderfully fresh and inventive story that tells children about shapes and colors and will inspire them to draw, this is the first book by an author-artist whose crayon-like pictures, warm colors and appealing characters have great charm.

Lines That Wiggle
Written by Candace Whitman
Illustrated by Steve Wilson
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: K to Grade 4)

A variety of monsters and other creatures demonstrate some of the different things that lines can do, from curve and curl to zig-zag. Follow the embossed line that runs through this picture book and turns itself into all kinds of things: the waves above an octopus, the veins in a leaf, the wrappings curling around a mummy, and the trapping threads of a spider web. Candace Whitman’s catchy rhyming text is brought to life by a host of creepy critters from first-time illustrator Steve Wilson.

A Day with No Crayons
Written by Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrated by Chad Cameron
Ages 4 to 8

When Liza’s mother takes away her beloved crayons, her world suddenly goes gray. How does the budding artist respond? She squirts her toothpaste angrily and stomps through mud puddles. Through these acts, Liza inadvertently creates art—and eventually discovers color in the world around her.

The Squiggle
Written by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Illustrated by Pierr Morgan
Ages Baby to PreK
(SLJ: PreK to Grade 1)

What magic can be found in a piece of string? The magic of a million incarnations—when the string is found by an imaginative little girl who spies it on the sidewalk! Unique and beautiful illustrations, inspired by Asian brush-stroke paintings, transform the simple thread into fireworks, thunderclouds, and even the moon. At last the girl returns to show her waiting classmates her newfound treasure: a “squiggle of a line”! Lavish illustrations and simple text make this an engaging read-aloud, sure to charm any playful child.

My Crayons Talk
Written by Patricia Hubbard
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: PreK to Grade 1)

Colors, feelings, images, and words jostle and bounce off one another in this lively picture book, creating as much fun as any box of crayons has ever had.

The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West
Written by Barbara Brenner
Illustrated by Olivier Dunrea
Ages 4 to 8
(SLJ: PreK to Grade 3)

When Benjamin West was seven years old, the only thing in the world he wanted to do was draw pictures. For a time, that got him into a peck of trouble. Papa wasn’t pleased when Benjamin “borrowed” his best quill pen. Mama wasn’t happy that Benjamin would rather sketch the cows than milk them. And Grimalkin, the family cat, was not keen on being the source for paintbrush hairs! Truth was, there was nothing Benjamin cared more about than art, and that led him to some surprising adventures. Here, in lively easy-to-read words and vivid pictures, is the engaging true story of Benjamin West, the farm boy from colonial Pennsylvania who grew up to become the first world-famous American artist and a friend to Benjamin Franklin and the King of England.

I hope you’ll get a chance to check out some of these books at your library or bookstore.  You might also enjoy visiting the illustrator websites.  I can’t wait to go back and browse through them! Perhaps all this won’t only get your kids interested in drawing, but they will inspire you to pick up a pencil, a pen, a crayon—anything—and draw! Yay!

See you on Friday!

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