Great Art History Picture Books for Kids

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Picture books can be one of the best formats for imparting a love of art and reading to kids. With whimsical illustrations and thoughtful text, the books below tell the stories of art and artists in refreshing ways sure to invite active engagement from children, those most observant of human beings. Read these books to your kid, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have the most cultured eight-year-old around.


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1. Why is Art full of Naked People? And Other Vital Questions about Art by Susie Hodge

From “Why is art full of naked people?” to “Why does art look so weird nowadays?”, this book answers all those pressing questions about art in ways kids can understand. It’s an eye-opening book and makes a perfect companion for a trip to a museum. And who knows? Maybe there’ll be fewer snickers next time they look at a Greek statue.


Find it on amazon here.


2. Women in Art: Fifty Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

You don’t have to be a kid to find this charmingly illustrated book about women artists both informative and inspiring. Between its covers you’ll find all your favorites, like Georgia O’Keeffe and Mary Cassatt, but you’ll also discover lesser known (but totally awesome) artists like Mary Edmonia Lewis and Elisabetta Sirani. This book can help teach boys and girls from an early age that art is not a domain reserved solely for men. 


Find it on amazon here.


3. If Da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold

If it’s true that all kids like dinosaurs, then this book has hit on a winning formula for teaching kids about artists and their styles--showing dinosaurs as they would have been painted by different artists! It’s got ballerina dinos by Degas and playful blue expressionist dinos à la  Franz Marc, to name just a few, and honestly, what more could anyone possibly want?


Find it on amazon here.


4. The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock

This magical book tells the story of Wassily Kandinsky, the artist who is typically credited with inventing abstract art. Beautifully illustrated, it’s pages show how he could hear music when he mixed colors due to a rare condition called synesthesia. This moving book is a celebration of creativity and the music we all hear in our own heads, even when the rest of the world doesn’t understand. 


Find it on amazon here.  


5. Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist by Barbara Herkert

An under-served African American artist and the art of quilting both get a fabulous boost in this cheerfully illustrated book about Harriet Powers, an artist who was born into enslavement but was freed at the end of the Civil War. This book shows how Harriet Powers was able to survive despite adversity and use her quilting skills to support her family, preserve a folk art tradition, and tell the stories that meant the most to her. It’s truly an inspirational read.


Find it on amazon here.


6. Katie’s Picture Show by James Mayhew

The first in a series, this adorable book follows a mischievous girl visiting a museum with her grandma. When her grandma immediately falls asleep on a bench, Katie gets to explore on her own, only to stumble right into some of the paintings. She ends up taking tea with an Ingres and playing hoop with a girl in a Renoir, among other adventures. This charming book is sure to spark the imagination of anyone who reads it. If you like it, check out Katie and the Impressionists and Katie and the Sunflowers.


Find it on amazon here.


7. When Pigasso met Mootisse by Nina Laden

First of all, we gotta love those anthropomorphised animal artist puns! And it turns out that the story itself is just as delightful as the title. It treats the friendship and rivalry of Picasso and Matisse in colorful, playful terms, introducing kids to the artists while also working as a lesson in tolerance and conflict resolution. Those who appreciate puns will also find much to enjoy.


Find it on amazon here.


8. Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh

This quiet and gentle picture-book biography introduces young readers to Edward Hopper, whose Iconic images color the American psyche even to this day. The illustrations, inspired by Hopper’s paintings, strike just the right note, showing us what Hopper saw that he so wanted to capture on canvas. It’s a lovely book that will inspire kids to look more closely at the world around them.


Find it on amazon here.


9. Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown

This vibrant book looks at Frida Kahlo’s life in her Casa Azul, concentrating on her beloved animals and her celebration of indigenous Mexican culture. While it touches on the tragedies of her life, it focuses on the joy and support her animals brought her as she painted them into some of her most memorable canvases. A charming book for any child who loves animals and art.

Find it on amazon here.

10. Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum by Dr. Seuss

Published posthumously in 2019, this book follows a friendly, anarchic horse who guides you through the major movements of art history by looking at all the horses in the paintings. You’ll look at works by George Stubbs, Rosa Bonheur, Jacob Lawrence, and more! A whimsical guide with a clear focus that kids will love, it’s the sort of book that could only spring from the mind of Dr. Seuss.


Find it on amazon here.

By introducing art to children when they're young, it can become part of their identity, too! 

Comments (5)

Anna Supova

Such cute suggestions!

Tina Haag

I'm often asked for book recommendations for kids and adults. My favorite book is Cloudspotting, by David Mitchell and Matthew Longo.


It will be really beneficial to have kids read books like this


I can't wait to check these out from the library!


I really enjoyed reading this post. It was both entertaining and amusing visually, with the book covers that you chose, and entertaining and amusing in terms of your commentary on the variety of art history books for kids. One example that you used that I particularly like was the book "Women in Art." The use of colors and line to make the characters and objects on the cover stood out to me because each woman on the cover is different and all of them have different unique talents. The way that the cover was designed shows the empowerment of women and all that women have done for art throughout history. You write that Mary Cassatt is talked about in the book. One quote of hers that I think the book is trying to display the ideas of is, "Women should be someone and not something." Overall, the cover design is a great example of the fact that art can be used in so many ways to get a point or ideas across in the most beautiful and intriguing way.