In the last couple of years I've had numerous requests for recommendations for the best, most accessible and age appropriate art books for the very young. I thought I'd take the opportunity of celebrating the launch of a very welcome addition to this well thumbed pile, to share a round up of the most effective art board books we have discovered.
1. First stop, a brilliant book I bought at the Tate Modern called Art For Baby. I have become rather an evangelist for it (it's a much purchased new baby gift from us) as it is both beautiful and engaging. Containing monochrome images by famous artists, such as In the first weeks of life babies see differently to us and are most attracted to people's faces, bold patterns (especially black and white) and contrasts between light and dark (that's why babies stare at windows). I've written about this further in this post. As Montessori from the Start notes: "The baby gradually develops focus on a moving object, tracking of an object, and perception of colour and depth."
2. The second set I bought were the beautiful little titles from Chronicle Books (USA) and Susan Goldman Rubin: Andy Warhol's Colors, Matisse Dance for Joy and Magritte's Imagination. The first two in particular have been extremely successful with the girls. We discovered Andy Warhol's Colours first online. This beautifully designed board book It is a perfect size for little fingers, feels shiny and beautiful to touch and has an engaging rhyme throughout. It was one of Culturebaby's first favourite books and came with us everywhere. The minute your baby is out of black and white books, I'd put this top of your to-buy list. We even included it, complete with colour activity, as a summer book exchange (see the follow-on activity HERE).
|Culturebaby's favourite: Edgar Degas' Blue Dancers from Wiki Commons
Dancing with Degas is the favourite with our miniature ballerinas - it uses the paintings of Degas to walk us through a ballerina's day; from preparation and rehearsal to performance and rest. There are mixed reviews of the text of this book (some think the language could be better), but I think the book (and series) are a great idea and the text does the job - the rhymes help the book flow and remind Culturebaby of the paintings she likes. I would really recommend them. We used the book to talk about which scene we'd like to jump into, we talked about what the ballerinas were doing and what they were wearing, and which instruments are depicted . Culturebaby had clear favourites, which she flicked through and found for herself again and again.
We were therefore delighted to see that in 2015 Tate produced a new, and slightly simpler, Lift-the-Flap board-book version of Miffy the Artist. The very young progress from black and white to cloth and then feely books as their vision and dexterity develops. Around nine months, I found that the girls started to really enjoy the cause and effect and surprise elements of lift-the-flap books. Culturetot still enjoys these, which are the pre-cursors to the brilliant and much more complex Usborne Look inside books, which appeal to much older children with the same basic concept. This version of Miffy the Artist is an accessible introduction to gallery going, and the important creative process of inspiration and consequent production. "At the end of the day Miffy knew she was a real artist". A message for all our little paintbrush-wielders to hear.
6. Finally, I'd like to recommend a new series of First Concepts with Fine Artists from the brilliant publisher of art books Phaidon. I'm really excited about these clever, stunningly produced and well thought-out titles. Each glossy board book takes a learning theme (colour, shape etc...) and in such simple terms explores how these feature in a range of the artist's work.
In April we received the first in this series to test - Blue and Other Colours with Henri Matisse. Two year old Culturetot and I have loved working through the book, spotting and naming the colours used, reading the text, answering questions posed and talking about our favourite works amongst the many (over 25) featured. The book focuses on Matisse's cut-outs - produced during his 17 twilight years when he was recovering from cancer and was often too sick to hold a paintbrush. Matisse had his assistants paint large sheets of paper in a wide range of colours, he cut them into shapes and then had them arrange these on his studio walls. He cut and arranged and re-worked these until he had his perfect composition - surrounding himself with a bright paper "garden" of his own creation. For toddlers, as we experienced in the Tate Modern's brilliant retrospective, this work is bold, dynamic and memorable; a catalyst for creativity. Youngsters, in particular those who still struggle to etch complex images and get frustrated that their drawings don't yet look on paper as they intend, can perhaps see in the aged Matisse a kindred spirit who distilled shapes down to their simplest form to create something wonderful. They too can use ready-made cut-outs to create an exciting artistic composition or, for the slightly older tots, take a pair of scissors and use them to 'draw' simple shapes.This book works well in combination with the Mini Masters A Magical Day with Matisse, which focusses on his earlier period.
“Art is as natural as sunshine and as vital as nourishment.”
MaryAnn F. Kohl
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
Disclaimer: We received the two titles from Phaidon, Miffy the Artist and Art for Baby Colour for review purposes from the publishers (with thanks). All other titles we bought. As always, all views are very much my own.