10 Books Every Art Teacher Needs


In today’s schools, there’s always a push for literacy integration, and I find stories to be amazing teaching tools in the art room.  I use picture books to supplement my lessons, introduce art history in kid-friendly ways, and begin discussions about creativity, defining art, art concepts, or art careers.  A story is going to stick with students longer than a list of facts, because it’s easier to remember and appeals to them on a positive, emotional level. Below is a list of books that can be appreciated and embraced for their enduring messages, creative inspiration, encouragement to be a unique, confident artist, and inspiration for numerous projects

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

I LOVE this book, and so do my students.  It encourages young artists to embrace their mistakes and make them into something beautiful…a “beautiful oops”.  This is a great message for all ages.  Throughout the year, many catastrophes were avoided as my students acknowledged their mistakes as beautiful oops’. This book also has the hidden moral gem that teaches the valuable lesson of adapting and using critical thinking skills to endure and achieve success.

The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Okay, I cheated by naming two, but no art room (or art teacher) is complete without these two stories. Both stories are about young artists learning to express themselves and overcoming hurdles in the creative process.  The Dot’s simple phrase, “Make a mark, and see where it takes you” stuck with my kiddos throughout the year.  More cheating: also check out The Museum by Susan Verde, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

Press Here by Herve Tullet

A very cute ‘interactive’ book that’s a real crowd pleaser!  I encourage you to read it through yourself first, so you know the actions you have to take as the narrator in order to “move” the dots in the book.  It’s also a fun book to pair with a primary colors lesson.  Herve Tullet just came out with another book, I am Blop!

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis (and also Not a Stick)

Your essential guide to warming up creative thinking skills, brainstorming, and introducing a lesson requiring imagination and innovation.  Not a Box follows a cute bunny through his imaginary adventures with a cardboard box: It’s a rocket ship, it’s a fire truck, it’s a robot, etc.  Not a Stick further encourages its audience to “think outside the box”, developing different uses for shapes, forms, and objects.  I usually pair this with my Not a CD lesson that requires my students to transform this circular shape into another object.  (Not a [Popsicle] Stick works just as well!)

A Day with No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch

A book about creating all kinds of art without crayons!   A great introduction to a found object project, or discussing all the different materials and tools that can be used to make art.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The crayons have had it!  They’re sick of being used for the same old things: yellow for the sun, green for the grass, gray for an elephant.  Great for conversation about color association, and inspiration to use color in unusual ways.  This would also be a perfect sub lesson: no hassle materials, and the only guideline is that you have to use color in a new way!

Lines that Wiggle by Candace Whitman

A glittery, rhyming introduction to line.  After we read this book, we try to find all the different kinds of lines we can remember reading about.  My only wish is that they had a book like this for all the elements of art!

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

The old classic!  Another great conversation starter about color association, this time with emotion.  There is also a wonderful video that features this animated story with symphony music.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Transforming a perfect square of paper into a multitude of things by tearing, cutting, crumpling, and arranging.  Another book about exercising “thinking outside the box” skills! Also, another great option as a sub lesson.

The Touch the Art Series by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo

If I could order multiples of books, this series would be it.  Some titles include Pop Warhol’s Top, Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair,and Feed Matisse’s Fish. My kiddos ADORE these books, and the best part is that they’re interacting with art history and masterpieces!  Each page of these board books has some sort of textured, movable, or 3-D piece that can be manipulated.  These are always the first books nabbed and shared, with three to four kiddos crowding around one book.  I especially love these books because of their wide appeal and benefits to ALL my different students!

Have you used any of these books in your classroom? 

What other books would you add to the list?

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek


Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.


  • Lisa

    You have to add Peter H. Reynolds’ newer one called “Sky Color!” It’s about painting the sky WITHOUT using blue! It’s a great story teaching students to think differently, be creative, when they have a problem to solve. I love ALL of his books though – he needs to write more!

    One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is “On Beyond Zebra.” Dr. Seuss creates new letters (like Umz and Yuzz), designs what that letter looks like, and invents a character that starts with that letter (Yuzz-a-ma-tuzz). Then of course he rhymes about what the animal is or where it can be found. I read this to my 5th graders, then they invent their own new letters, design it, and create a character and short rhyme to go with it. They have so much fun with this! I know it’s not an “Art” Book, but definitely a great creative lesson for the kids!
    Another book I love is “The Araboolies of Liberty Street.” I found this book on another art blog and LOVED it. Crazy colorful island people move into a stark white boring neighborhood and shake things up!
    I could go on and on. I LOVE books in the art room! But I hadn’t heard of all your suggestions so I am excited to check them out! Thanks so much!

    • Alecia Eggers

      YES!! Peter H. Reynolds = sheer genius! I will definitely have to check out your other two! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jen

    I love using books in the art room. Some other books I LOVE to use in my room (sorry, I don’t remember the authors at this moment) are: Painting the Town, The Color Tree, Art and Max, When Pigasso Met Mootisse, Little Green, The Art Book for Children (1 & 2), Regina’s Big Mistake (Reading Rainbow), and I Ain’t Gonna Paint No more!

    • Alecia Eggers

      LOVE those! Do you use them with specific lessons? I’m sure there could be an endless list of books that we use to inspire and supplement lessons!

  • Jenette Noe

    1. 200 Projects to Strengthen Your Art Skills by Valerie Colston – Bright and colorful design, easy to use layout and organization, and simple tips for artistic exercises.
    2. Look Closer: Masterpieces through the Ages by Caroline Desnoettes – For young and old readers alike, this book has beautiful reproductions of the masterpieces in clear, colorful prints and closeup shots. Each masterpiece has interactive flaps, color palette breakdowns, viewing prompts for the little ones and more detailed explanations for the grown-ups.
    3. Great Paintings: The World’s Masterpieces Explored and Explained – an excellent art history resource with large color images that focus on different parts of the masterpieces. Each one has a brief description of the artist, the masterpiece, the formal characteristics of the piece, techniques, and context. The book has beautiful large color images, with lots of close-up shots in a “visual tour” for each masterpiece.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Thanks Jenette! I have 200 Projects, but the other ones sounds AMAZING, especially Look Closer…I’m sensing an Amazon book order in my near future!

  • Betsy Muprhy

    I love using “The Rainbow Goblins” to introduce color to younger elementary students. The book is written and illustrated by Ul De Rico and published by Thames and Hudson. The reproductions of his oil paintings are so luscious and the story is so engaging that kids asked me to read it again and again.

    • Alecia Eggers

      That sounds awesome! I’lll have to check it out – thanks for sharing!

  • Danielle

    “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson. It’s creative and imaginative. I have used it as the inspiration for making our own storybooks, which is a great project for children who are not yet confident in their writing abilities since they get to tell their stories using illustrations as well.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Oh yes!! An awesome classic!

  • Kortney

    My entire Kindergarten art curriculum is based around books. It helps break up the 40 minute classes. I use several listed here: The Dot, Ish, Lines that Wiggle, and My Many Colored Days. A few other favorites are Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman, The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf, and I’m the Best Artist in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Ohhh! I’ll have to check out those three – I’m just doing a ‘crazy hair’ project with my 1st graders!

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  • Mrs Rodenbaugh

    What do you suggest for 3-5th grades? I always find ones I love for the K-2 set, but I’d love to start off the year reading a book about art process or what artists do to them

    • Alecia Eggers

      Good question! I tend to lean more towards books about artists and cultures for the older ones – there are some great finds out there! These are full of info, but would be fun to pull excerpts out of: http://www.whowasbookseries.com I also like the Getting to Know Series and Uncle Andy’s!

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