A woman teaches a group in an outdoor rural setting. We see horses and farmers working in the background

Every April 2nd, on or around the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, celebrations take place around the world to recognize the important and essential role that books play in our children’s lives. Many of us can look back on our childhoods with fond memories of story time with a parent or caregiver, listening intently to words that created new worlds and characters inside our minds, fueling our imagination.

One of the ways we champion our love of the literary is through a continued partnership with Texas’ largest independent bookstore BookPeople in Austin, bringing authors to the museum for Art of the Book to discuss their work and interact with young audiences within our galleries. In celebration of International Children’s Book Day, we asked one of our Museum Educators, Monique O’Neil (Family and Community Programs), to share five of her favorite art-related reads for kids. We’ve also included useful links via BookShop.Org so you can support local and find these books at your local bookstore!

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe

I was one of the lucky people that had the pleasure to hear this book read aloud by the author and illustrator himself, Javaka Steptoe, when he came to the Blanton as part of our collaboration with BookPeople. Through his rich and engaging illustrations painted and collaged onto found wood, you’re immediately drawn into this endearing story that celebrates the life of a young Jean-Michel Basquiat. An inspiring homage to a legendary artist who paved his own “messy” way through his unique style of art.

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Idea Jar, by Adam Lehrhaupt

If your kids are a fan of the Exquisite Corpse art activity, or you as a parent are hearing your child say for the hundredth time, “I’m bored!”, then this is your book! Idea Jar brings to life a teacher’s special jar where students keep their story ideas, but eventually they get out, mixing together and creating the wildest of adventures. The Idea Jar is never ending!

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Niko Draws a Feeling, by Bob Raczka

As a mother of a child with Autism, Niko Draws a Feeling holds a fond place in my literary heart. Niko’s journey will touch and inspire young readers of all abilities to create and embrace their unique perspectives, while also teaching about friendship and our desire to be understood.

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Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

When working with our community partners, I always love seeing the smallest of artists create something big! Inspired by a true story, Maybe Something Beautiful splashes color and life onto a young girl’s neighborhood, sharing an empowering story of community engagement and how art can transform people and the places they live. This book is also available in Spanish.

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Shh! We Have A Plan, by Chris Haughton

This book gives my family and I the best belly laughs! With nets in hand, four friends embark on a journey into the woods and become determined to capture a beautiful bird they spot resting high up in a tree. Each turn of the page reveals their silly and elaborate plans which become foiled, one after another. You and your kids will find yourselves reading in unison – “Ready one … ready two … ready three… GO!”

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Feature image caption: George Charles Miller (1894 – 1965) Printer, Diego Rivera (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1886 – 1957, Mexico City) Primary, La maestra rural [The Rural Teacher], 1932, Lithograph, 40.3 cm x 57.9 cm (15 7/8 in. x 22 13/16 in.), Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1986

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