While children’s books are an art in and of themselves, when art and music are the topic, creative sharing experiences abound. Such texts give children a point of reference for understanding the role of the fine and performing arts in their own lives. Books in this category help develop children’s imagination, pique their curiosity, and enhance student confidence in their ability to connect with various genres, making them say: “I can be an artist or musician too.”
Here are a few of my favorite books for young readers that accomplish the above goals:
Magic Trash, Jane Shapiro (Author), Vanessa Newton (Illustrator):
Internationally acclaimed artist Tyree Guyton grew up on Heidelberg Street in Detroit, Michigan. When he was a boy he collected bits and pieces—trash—to create his own fun. Eventually Tyree left Heidelberg Street to find his way in the world, but his mind often traveled back home. When he did return, hard times had fallen on his neighborhood: homes were abandoned, trash was everywhere, and troublemakers haunted the street. Tyree re-imagined his decaying neighborhood, and with the help of his grandpa Sam, who had encouraged him to paint the world, Tyree set to fixing up the mess. He created sculpture out of the trash that littered the neighborhood, painted the dilapidated houses with color and design, and changed the world on Heidelberg Street.
2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Heidelberg Project, an ongoing art installation where Tyree Guyton still works. Magic Trash is the story of Tyree’s transformation of a dying neighborhood, the opposition he faced, and how a residential neighborhood in Detroit became famous. An inspiring story of urban renewal and the healing power of art.
Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s mixed media collage art is a fitting tribute to the beauty of Tyree Guyton’s vision that anything can become a beautiful thing when used for a purpose.
The Art Collector, Jan Wahl (Author), Rosalinde Bonnet (Illustrator):
Oscar’s Great-Granny showed him how to draw. Oscar was not good at drawing. But he loved art, so he kept the drawing of a red chicken that Great-Granny gave to him and he loved to look at it. He bought another drawing at a flea market, and he loved looking at that one, too. As he grew up, Oscar collected more drawings and paintings, filling his bedroom with color and shapes and scenes. Oscar collected and collected until a museum had to be built to hold all of his drawings and paintings.
Not everyone can become an artist, but as Oscar learned, everyone can love looking at art.
Oscar’s passion for the stories in paintings and the thoughts they provoke will inspire young readers to see art in a new way—even if they don’t enjoy making it themselves.
When You Wish upon a Star [Hardcover] Judy Collins (Performer) (Author), Leigh Harline (Author), Ned Washington (Author), Eric Puybaret (Illustrator):
Grammy Award–winning singer Judy Collins and illustrator Eric Puybaret (best-selling illustrator of Puff, the Magic Dragon; The Night Before Christmas, performed by Peter, Paul and Mary; and Over the Rainbow, performed by Judy Collins), who together created the New York Times best-seller Over the Rainbow, collaborate once again to bring a classic song to life, with equally enchanting results.
Written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington in 1940, the Academy Award®–winning When You Wish Upon a Star is beloved by listeners from 2 to 92 for its sweet hopefulness, poignant melody, and simple yet profound lyrics. Promising that “anything your heart desires will come to you,” it appeals to the believer and child in all of us. The words weave a vision of a world rich in love and happiness—a world open to everyone, “no matter who you are.” And no singer can capture the haunting beauty of this classic like Collins, with her emotionally resonant voice.
Eric Puybaret’s captivating art, with its graceful lines, stunning use of color, and strong sense of fantasy, is the perfect complement to Collins’s lovely interpretation. His art has been called “elegantly rendered,” by the New York Times; “graceful [and] whimsical,” by Publishers Weekly; and “lovely . . . and indeed magical,” by Kirkus Reviews.
This type of literature helps children develop insight into universal human concepts, such as compassion, morality, relationships and empathy. It is one way to hand down our artistic and musical heritage to the next generation, both validating the child’s own culture, and introducing others.
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