Growing Readers Review: Fine Arts

Preschool aged girl pointing to an open book on a desk

Introducing children to the fine arts through literature is a meaningful way to connect them to the artistic world. Through beautiful, vibrant illustrations, woven in with music and cultural references, the world of visual arts, music, and dance can be opened to children and can help to get their own creativity flowing.

This issue’s Books of Excellence evoke an understanding and appreciation of beauty and culture through their rich story lines, illustrations and references to music.

The infant-toddler selection, Little Chickies/Los Pollitos is two books in one with the story in both Spanish and English. For the design alone, this book merits the title of Book of Excellence, but children will also be drawn to the engaging illustrations and simple, rhythmic storyline of newborn chicks and their mother.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, the preschool selection, is the true story of how one person’s artwork can inspire a community to paint large wall murals and thereby brighten a city.

Another true transformation story, Ada’s Violin, the school-age selection, tells how a town overcomes the stigma of being adjacent to a large landfill. The townspeople make instruments out of recycled materials from the landfill and create an orchestra that travels worldwide.

Art can have a positive impact on a community. Everyone benefits by creating beautiful places and things and that is an important message for children.

By Linda C. Whitehead, Ph.D., Senior Advisor, Education and Development


Little Chickies/Los Pollitos, written & illustrated by Susie Jaramillo, Infant/Toddler: This charming children’s book is based on a popular Spanish children’s song. Mama hen feeds and warms her chicks until they are ready to sleep. The rhyming and “lift the flap pages” make it an irresistible read. If you don’t know the song “Los Pollitos” yet, you will be singing along by the end of the book.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, written by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López, Preschool: Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, this book explores the power of art in the community. Mira, the main character, uses her love of art to spread joy in her neighborhood and inspire others to add color to the world around them. This delightful story brings out the artist in all of us!

Ada’s Violin, written by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, School-Age: This is a true story about a community built around a landfill. Favio Chavez wants to teach the children to play instruments. He and the town folk have little money; however, they do have discarded items in the landfill. Thus is born the recycled orchestra. A town, whose existence is built upon trash, becomes an inspiration for hope around the world.

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip through the Motown Sound, written by Andrea D. Pinkney Base, Middle-High School: Rhythm Ride is a highly engaging book which tells the history of the music of Motown through words and photographs. Set in the background of the current events of that time period, Motown stars are featured from the Marvelettes to Marvin Gaye to Stevie Wonder to Diana Ross and more. With a helpful timeline in the back, this book includes everything you want to know about the music of Motown.


Blue and Other Colors: With Henri Matisse, published by First Concepts, Infant & Toddler: This book teaches young readers about colors while exposing them to fine arts on each page. The book title may have the word “blue” in it, but readers will be anything but sad while experiencing this artistic book.

Itsy Bitsy Spider, written & illustrated by Emily Bannister, Infant & Toddler: A new spin on an old classic that tiny hands will revel in. Children can touch and trace shapes on each page as they enjoy the traditional nursery rhymes including Itsy Bitsy Spider, Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Six Little Ducks and others!

Emma and Julia Love Ballet, written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock, Preschool: Emma’s parents take her to the ballet. Her dreams and aspirations become real as Emma watches a professional ballerina named Julia perform. Emma even goes backstage to get Julia’s autograph. The beautifully detailed drawings make the magic of the ballet come alive for the reader.

Rain Fish, written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert, Preschool: Children will recognize many of the brightly colored collage items used to create the rain fish. They will enjoy following along with the rhyming sequences and they may end with a question as they finish listening to this engaging book,” Where would I go if I were a rain fish?”

Tell Me a Tattoo Story, written by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, Preschool: A young son is told his family’s history through the stories behind each of his father’s tattoos. There is a tattoo from a childhood book, one representing his grandfather’s knowledge, and possibly the best of all, a small heart with a date inside.

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life, written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert, School-Age: Scraps gives an intriguing “behind the scenes” look into how a prolific artist of children’s books does her work. This author/illustrator shares how she got interested in art and what inspires her. Ehlert’s creativity may encourage the same in children. (Also see write-up for Rain Fish).

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Preschool aged girl pointing to an open book on a desk