Looking at Art

Look!  Body Language in Art
by Gillian Wolfe
(Frances Lincoln)
As the name suggests, this book looks closely at people in paintings, talking about how their position and facial expression helps us to know what they are feeling. As well as encouraging children to look at pictures in more detail, it also provides an interesting introduction to body language in real life. The seventeen paintings studied cover a wide range of periods and styles and there are suggestions with each one to encourage readers to develop their own art.
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Dan’s Angel –  A Detective’s Guide to the Language of Paintings
by Alexander Sturgis and Lauren Child
(Frances Lincoln)
Dan wanted to be a detective. He had his own magnifying glass and he was always looking for clues. When he visits an art gallery, the Angel Gabriel flies out of one of the paintings to show Dan how to search for clues in the pictures on display. This enjoyable story encourages children to search for small details and symbolism in a wide range of different paintings.
Ages 4-9+
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Dog’s Night
by Meredith Hooper and Allan Curless
(Frances Lincoln)
According to this story, one night each year the dogs from the paintings in the National Gallery climb out of their pictures and run riot round the building. But one night, things go wrong and some of the dogs end up in the wrong pictures. This funny story is a good way to spark children’s interest in art especially if you are planning to take them to the National Gallery.
Ages 4-8
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Oxford First Book of Art
by Gillian Wolfe
(Oxford University Press)
This introduction to art for young children includes images of a variety of paintings, drawings, sculptures and textiles from around the world and from many periods of history. The pictures are grouped in themes (mother and child, shapes, patterns etc) with text which encourages children to look at each one more closely and to experiment with some of the ideas in their own artwork. The index is useful with the titles of the pictures in italics to make them easy to find. An interesting book which can be enjoyed by artists and non-artists alike, individually or in a small group.
(with thanks to Ros)
Ages 7-13
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Discover Great Paintings
by Lucy Micklethwait
(Dorling Kindersley)
This excellent book looks at a selection of paintings  in a way which is easy to access and interesting to use. The paintings have been chosen to interest children and the questions on each one encourage young readers to become art detectives – looking for specific objects and thinking about the scene it depicts. Notes around the picture  provide the answers and there is also interesting background information on both the artist and the painting itself. This approach works well, combining fact and investigation to stimulate interest in what is behind and within a picture rather than merely looking at it aesthetically.
For ages 7-adult, including children with special needs.
May tempt reluctant readers
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Looking at Pictures
by Joy Richardson
(A&C Black)
Based on pictures from the National Gallery, this book looks at some of the techniques artists use as well as the background of the paintings themselves. Although it is very informative, its layout and style is unlikely to attract young readers who are not already interested in the subject. Best for older readers who are enthusiastic about art and also a useful addition to the
school library.