13 Art Inventions Children Should Know by Florian Heine and 13 British Artists Children Should Know by Alison Baverstock are two incredibly well produced nonfiction books I think every school library should have on their shelves. They are eye-opening, they are thought-provoking and they are beautiful. And if you’re taking your kids to visit a gallery then reading these books together before you go will really enrich your experience.
13 Art Inventions Children Should Know highlights 13 seminal developments/approaches in the history of art. You could argue about the use of the word invention, but that would be missing the point; this book is a great way in to breaking down that monolithic question: “What is art?”
13 Art Inventions Children Should Know has mini chapters on the earliest known paintings (including photos from the incredible Chauvet caves in France), taking painting outdoors, self portraits, copperplate engraving, photography, cartoons, everyday objects in art and graffiti amongst others.
As you would hope, each 3-4 page spread contains really high quality reproductions of an example of the art form in question, and this is put in to context with a timeline, some historical background, quiz questions and suggestions for your own art activities. A glossary and answers to the quiz questions at the back complete this substantial book.
A similar format is adopted in 13 British Artists Children Should Know and again, the choices made about what to include are interesting and not always what you might have expected (for example, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst do not feature in this book, whilst Mary Beale and Yinka Shonibare do).
These books are physically gorgeous. The stories told, both of turning points in art history and of the people who have created some of the art we know, are engaging, surprising and definitely worth reading. If your school library doesn’t own these books, demand your local library order some copies!
Using the 13 Art Inventions Children Should Know as our guide I created a treasure hunt notebook for each of the girls to take with them on a recent trip to our local art gallery and museum. There was a page for each invention, with a question encouraging the girls to find a piece of art using that invention eg Can you find a painting of weather? What’s the oldest painting you can find? Can you find a photo? etc Here’s the pdf of the file I created if you want to make your own notebook.
I printed the pages two to a sheet, cut them in half and then stapled them together with cardboard so that the girls had something a little firm to lean on as they walked around the gallery. To complete the notebooks I added pencils on strings, attached to the notebooks with velcro so they didn’t get lost.
Using our 13 questions was a great way to give a little focus to our gallery visit, and to encourage us to look at objects we often walk past in our haste to visit our regular favourites.
Fun kids’ music on a theme of art, art galleries and museums includes:
If you can’t make it to a museum/art gallery with your kids you could try these activities instead:
What tips do you have for getting kids excited about visiting art galleries and museums?
Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, reflect my own and honest opinion.