Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Storybook Art: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of 100 Great Picture Book

Storybook Art: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of 100 Great Picture Book

MaryAnn F. Kohl, Jean Potter
Illustrator:  Rebecca Van Slyke 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 12
Bright Ring Publishing, 2003   ISBN: 093560703X

Many children (and adults) love to look at the artwork in picture books. They are inspired by the styles that the illustrators use to capture the essence of the story that they are illustrating. In this very special book, children can learn how to create art in the style used in one hundred picture books. The activities in the book do not require that young artists have special skills or expensive art materials, and they encourage children to explore both the art and the text in the books that are used as examples. The art projects were inspired by books such as Olivia by Ian Falconer, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, Elmer by David McKee, and Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.

The projects are divided into four chapters. The first one looks at painting projects, the second at drawing projects, the third at collage art, and the fourth explores projects that are more crafty, such as pop-ups, clay pictures, and three-dimensional scenes.

For each project, the author looks at the illustrative style used in one particular book. For example, in the first chapter we find a page about Chris Van Allsburg’s book The Polar Express. The author gives us a brief description of the story and describes the style that the illustrator used to create the nighttime wintery scenes in the tale. Then we are given a list of materials and a description of the project. In this case, young artists are going to create a nighttime scene of their own, similar to the ones in the book. Once the scene is painted and dried they are going to add snowflakes and cut out the windows in the buildings. A sheet of bright yellow paper is then taped behind the cut out squares of the windows to make them look as if lights are shining out into the night.

In the second chapter we are challenged to create a charcoal picture similar to the ones that Clare Turlay Newberry created for her book Marshmallow. In this project, children will learn how to draw with charcoal, which can be a messy business.

What makes this art book so special is that it is closely linked to books, the kinds of books that are often a child’s introduction to paintings, drawings, collage and other forms of illustration. Throughout the book, young artists are encouraged to look at and read the books that are used as examples.

At the back of the book there is a resource guide, which includes website addresses, lists of publishing houses who publish picture books, lists of books that have won picture book awards, and various indices.


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