The Best New Children’s Books for Budding Art Lovers

Casey Lesser
Dec 13, 2017 9:58PM

It’s never too early to start learning about art. And luckily, an inspiring crop of children’s books were published this year with wee art lovers in mind. Parents and kids alike will appreciate the titles below, ranging from biographical spotlights on Yayoi Kusama and Keith Haring to an alternative cookbook, a historical coloring book, and a fresh look at the Statue of Liberty.

My Museum

Illustrated by Joanne Liu

Illustration for My Museum by Joanne Liu. © Joanne Liu.

More artwork than book, this text-free narrative follows a young museum-goer as he wanders the hallowed halls of great museums. The small boy in Liu’s dazzling illustrations ogles fellow museum-goers, plays with his shadow, and hides under a bench, all the while surrounded by the works of Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Johannes Vermeer, Piet Mondrian, and more, spotlighting the museum as a wondrous place for curious children.

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos

Written by Monica Brown, illustrated by‎ John Parra

Illustration for Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by John Parra. Courtesy of NorthSouth Books.


Inspired by the Mexican artist’s legendary life, the story illustrates Kahlo’s upbringing and formative years, spent surrounded by animal companions—spider monkeys, turkeys, a parrot, an eagle, a fawn, and a black cat, among other creatures. The animals, which also feature as subjects in Kahlo’s paintings, also symbolize some of her greatest characteristics.

Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity

Written by Sarah Suzuki, illustrated by‎ Ellen Weinstein, with artwork by Yayoi Kusama

Illustration for Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity. © 2017 Ellen Weinstein.

What’s the best way to introduce kids to Kusama? Start with the dots. That’s what MoMA curator Suzuki and illustrator Weinstein have done in this book, which reflects the brilliant colors and serenity of the artist’s work, while mapping out her life, from sketching outdoors as a child in Japan to exhibiting in major art museums.

Mud Book: How to Make Pies and Cakes

Written and illustrated by John Cage and Lois Long

Illustration for Mud Book by John Cage and Lois Long. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Illustration for Mud Book by John Cage and Lois Long. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Back in the 1950s, the renowned avant-garde composer Cage collaborated with textile designer Long to make a book. The small volume, reissued this year, includes handwritten recipes for creating successful mudpies and a “mud layer cake.” It charmingly toys with the earnest traditions of art books and cookbooks, while celebrating a time-honored childhood tradition.

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford,‎ illustrated by Sarah Green

Illustration for Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Sarah Green. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

This story of the acclaimed documentary photographer begins with her early days as a rebellious student in New York, and then follows her to San Francisco, where despite obstacles Lange finds her footing as a photojournalist, eventually landing important assignments to cover the country during the Great Depression and World War II. While illustrating Lange’s passion to document everyday Americans, the story finishes by telling the tale behind one of her most famous photographs, Migrant Mother (1936).

Her Right Foot

Written by Dave Eggers, illustrated by‎ Shawn Harris

Illustration for Her Right Foot by‎ Shawn Harris. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Eggers’s timely telling of the origin and significance of the Statue of Liberty is enlivened by Harris’s fantastic cut-paper art, which guides us from Paris in the 1880s to modern-day New York. While illustrating the artistic production of the monumental sculpture, the story homes in on the stance of Lady Liberty—caught in mid-stride—in order to recognize her role as a symbol of welcome to immigrants across the world.

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

Written by Kay Haring, illustrated by‎ Robert Neubecker

Illustration for Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Robert Neubecker. Courtesy of Dial Books, Penguin Random House.

Lovingly written by the artist’s sister, this book draws on her memories of growing up with Haring, witnessing his relentless passion to make art. The narrative follows Haring as he begins creating his own childhood visual language as a childhood, going on to make chalk drawings on subway posters and paint giant murals around the world—all in the name of sharing art with others.

My First Book of Patterns

Written by Bobby George and‎ June George, illustrated by‎ Boyoun Kim

My First Book of Patterns, by Bobby & June George, art by Boyoun Kim, Phaidon, open at pages 3-4, 'STRIPES!'

Little ones who’ve already mastered basic colors and shapes can study up on stripes, polka dots, argyle, paisley, and more in this vibrant tome. The smartly designed pages give children the visual cues and vocabulary to recognize patterns, and may also inspire them to create their own.

Sonia Delaunay: A Life of Color

Written by Cara Manes, illustrated by Fatinha Ramos, with artwork by Sonia Delaunay

Illustration for Sonia Delaunay: A Life of Color. © 2017 Fatinha Ramos.

With text by Manes and illustrations by Ramos, this whimsical book gives young readers a fresh window into Delaunay’s vivid artworks, through following the artist and her son, Charles, on a magical journey. Delaunay recounts the stories behind some of her most famous, color-filled paintings, traveling to a Parisian dance hall, a Portuguese market, and a Amsterdam shop selling her fabrics, while opening her son’s eyes to the vibrant sights, sounds, and patterns of everyday life.

Artists and Their Pets: True Stories of Famous Artists and Their Animal Friends

Written by Susie Hodge, illustrated by Violet Lemay

Illustration for Artists and their Pets by Violet Lemay. Courtesy of Duopress.

Many famous artists are known to have kept pets. This comprehensive book presents the biographical tales of several artists and their animal friends, including Andy Warhol’s dachshunds, Salvador Dalí’s ocelot, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Siamese cats.

The Great Big Art History Colouring Book

Written by Annabelle von Sperber and Susanne Rebscher, illustrated by Annabelle von Sperber

Illustration by Annabelle Von Sperber. Courtesy of Prestel.

This atypical coloring book encourages children not only to add their own spin to art history’s masterpieces, but also to learn about how these works came to be. Kids (or adults) can color their way through ancient temples, Leonardo da Vinci’s studio, and a garden populated by Impressionist painters, while also learning about the movements, key figures, and innovations of the history of art.

Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.