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Since the artwork can make or break a picture book, they can be a great way to introduce children to artistic concepts, as well as the joy of making art in the first place. Some of these books do that, and others focus on specific artists, but all help to bring art into a child's world and encourage experimentation.


1. Ish, by Peter Reynolds, is the story of a boy named Ramon who likes to draw -- until someone laughs at his artwork, and he suddenly realizes that nothing he draws looks exactly like it's "supposed" to. This is such a good topic to cover in a children's book because many children go through a stage where they begin to realize that their way of seeing the world is changing, and many abandon art at about that time. With some help, Ramon recovers his desire to create, realizing that "ish" is a better goal than "exact." Full review here.


2. One of my favorite picture books in recent  years is The Sky Painter by Margarita Engle. It tells the story of Louis Fuertes, a boy who was interested in birds and art from a young age, and found a way to combine his interests in the field of bird art. Not only did he produce a lot of art and go on expeditions all over the world, but he also learned to paint quickly instead of shooting birds with a gun and posing them. Full review here.


3. A unique book which actually points out some "mistakes" in the illustrations as well as the way they were dealth with, The Book of Mistakes (by Corinna Luyken) combines lovely pastels mixed with black, white, and gray to create a narrative that "zooms" out bit by bit on a bunch of interesting-looking characters in their treehouse. It really encourages us to remember that we all make mistakes, but that they can help us to grow.


4. The Iridescence of Birds is a poetic tribute to artist Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan. The artwork in this book is especially lovely and incorporates elements from some of Matisse's more iconic images. While the book doesn't share major details of Matisse's life, the vignettes are enough to give us an glimpse of some of the reasons for why he painted what he did.


5. This is a fun one. Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg, helps encourage kids to see their mistakes as opportunities by demonstrating it with torn paper, coffee stains, drips, smudges, and even crumpled paper. The illustrations are mixed media and very vibrant, and there are fun flaps to open to see the "before" and "after" of the possibilities. Full review here.


Bonus: For a fun and simple (though very tall) book to introduce children to art history, A Child's Book of Art by Lucy Micklethwait is a great choice. Paintings are organized around simple themes that would be familiar to young children: family, animals, seasons, as well as various places and means of transportation.

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