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.

Teaching Kids Art

Cooper's Farmer's Market

I would consider myself to be an art lover. B.C. (before children), I hit every major museum exhibition in whatever city I happened to live. I made sure to stop into art museums no matter where I traveled, be it NYC, Boston, Orlando or London. My poor husband spent three days of our honeymoon in Paris holed up at the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay.  He amused himself by making up silly titles for the paintings.

I don’t get to museums and galleries as often as I used to, as the two boys — ages three and five — have lots of energy and loud voices. But I do try to expose them to art in our community when I can. They have their own memberships to the LA County Museum of Art, and we visit The Getty Museum several times a year.

Despite my appreciation for art, I fumble when it comes to encouraging the boys to explore art. They have such passion for reading and science, that I forget to pull out the play-doh, colors and paints except for rare occasions. In fact, I lost our play-doh stash for more than a year while de-cluttering for a party. We only recently found it. Oooops!

Enter the blog TeachKidsArt, which provides easily replicable art lessons for teachers, homeschoolers and parents alike. I stumbled upon this blog via a very creative homeschooling mom, who’s blog I follow. I encourage you to check out her adventures as well at Only Passionate Curiosity.

Back to teaching kids art. Inspired by these two blogs, I decided to introduce the boys to Paul Cezanne and encourage them to use watercolors to paint their own still life of some bananas. This effort was only marginally successful. Finley (the three-year-old) took one look at the bananas and declared himself starving. He wolfed down one of the bananas immediately. Cooper decided to paint the farmer’s market instead of the bananas. Watercolors did not hold their interest, so we went mixed media with watercolor pencils and markers. The whole endeavor lasted about 10 minutes. However, I do feel proud of myself for trying to inject an artistic enterprise into the day.

I’m now following TeachKidsArt and hope the process will prompt me to dust off our art supplies more than once a month.