Arts/Crafts, Books

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Art Lesson

Author/Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publication Info: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1989
Intended audience: Ages 4 and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: art, autobiography, individuality, persistence
Opening and synopsis: ”Tommy knew he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He drew pictures everywhere he went. It was his favorite thing to do.” Tommy wants to be an artist. He can’t wait to start school and take weekly lessons from the art teacher. His cousins tell him real artists never copy. What will Tommy do when the art teacher has the class copy her drawings?
Why I like this book: Tommy is a boy who knows what he wants — to be an artist. He holds fast to this dream even in the face of discouragement, especially from his first-grade teacher.
Resources: Houghton Mifflin has a “Meet the Author” page with biographical information about dePaola. Here’s a reader’s theater script for the book. Ginger at has developed an entire study unit around the book. Finally, this book shows the value of teaching children art. My hands-down favorite site for art lessons is TeachKidsArt.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

28 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Art Lesson”

  1. This sounds a great one for parents as much as kids to show them that creativity is so important and to stick to your guns. I sound like I’ve read it 🙂 Thanks Kirsten!

  2. I just love Tomie dePaola, and this is one I haven’t read yet. I will be checking it out, as one of my daughters is a budding artist. Thanks for the recommendation, Kirsten!

  3. Oh, I would love to read this. An art book AND a book about helping kids find what they want to do when they grow up AND by Tomie dePaola! Why have I not seen this before? And why does my library not have it?!

      1. Bad library, is right! I have to admit that I am super lucky, as I can draw from then entire LA County library system, which is HUGE. Can you get it on interlibrary loan?

  4. How great! A picture book autobiography of the great Tomie! I look forward to your choices eery week Kirsten – you are responsible for a huge percentage of our non-fiction list! 🙂 Thanks for sharing another great one!

  5. Kirsten, this is one of the many, many books of Tomie de Paola that I adore. We need a few of these on PPPF!

  6. I’m glad Tommy didn’t allow himself to be thwarted in his determination to be an artist! Too often dreams like that are squelched by well-intentioned but thoughtless remarks and actions on the part of teachers and other adults, unfortunately.

  7. What a great book. I will have to check it out. I love that he stuck with his passion. If we all did that, the world would be a much happier place!

  8. Kirsten, this is a great book! I love the self-portrait. I have seen it and just love the message. Doesn’t hurt to be a fan of Tomie dePaola. His books are just wonderful! Have met him twice at book signings back in the 90s. Great choice today!

  9. Thanks for the introduction to this book. I love some of Tomie de Paola’s other books but did not know this one. And thank you for the link to TeachKidsArt – I love finding new art ideas to enjoy with my kindergarten kids.

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