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Children's Literature with Fine Arts Strategies

The Fine Arts Department encourages all elementary schools to expand their library with arts-related children’s literature. Find suggestions when selecting books for lessons or activities that focus on Fine Arts.

Book List

This book list includes just a few of the many children’s literature selections used by the elementary art and music teachers as catalysts and/or resources for their lessons. The “Suggested Use” column provides a brief explanation of how each book can be used by a classroom teacher for a Fine Arts-related activity.

Visual Art Lessons

Art Content

  • Is the book about an artist (When Pigasso Met Mootisse) or about an art element (The Straight Line Wonder; My Many Colored Days)?

Subject Content

  • Does the book provide cultural background or context for your lesson? (The Talking Cloth or My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me for a lesson about Africa; Dream Carver for a lesson about Oaxacan folk art)
  • Does the book address a cross-curricular connection? (Water Dance or Cloud Dance for science and landscapes; 1, 2, 3 POP for math and number sculptures; Alphabet City for literacy and drawing or painting)


  • Is this book a Caldecott Award Winner? (award given for outstanding illustration)
  • Do the illustrations demonstrate a particular medium or media? (collage in Eric Carle books)
  • How does the medium used for the illustrations relate to the storyline and/or mood of the book? (watercolor illustrations in Mem Fox’s Time for Bed)
  • Do the illustrations require keen observation in order to complement the story? (Zoom by Istvan Banyai; Imagine a Night by Rob Gonsalves)

Relationship Between Image and Text

  • How does the placement of the image/s and the text enhance the storyline or the mood of the book? (A Poke in the Eye demonstrates a form of poetry called concrete poetry; pop-up books could fall in this category as well.)

Dramatization with Music and Movement

Opportunities for Sound Effects

  • This can include descriptors for action, emotions or moods. (My Many Colored Days; Listen to the Rain)
  • Sources for sound effects can be as simple as your voice or body percussion, or objects found in any classroom including trash cans, pencils on desks, keys, rattling paper, etc. (Mortimer; Inside a House That is Haunted)

Opportunities for Rhythmic Speaking or Chanting

  • Look for books with poems or chants that can be spoken rhythmically. Often these chants can be layered together. (Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes; Old Black Fly; Jazz Fly; Beetle Bop, Hurry Hurry)

Opportunities to Create Songs

  • Students can make up a song about a character, or take repeated words or phrases from the story to create a song. Look for books with poems or chants that could be set to a familiar tune – or make up a new one. (Brown Bear Brown Bear; The Pout Pout Fish; Edward the Emu; Hush Little Polar Bear)

Opportunities for Recorded Music

  • While recorded music can enhance the mood of a story, aim for a balance between recorded music and music created by students. (A Dark Dark Tale; Tuesday; The Composer is Dead; What a Wonderful World)

Opportunities for Movement

  • Look for characters or events in the story that can be dramatized with specific, descriptive facial expressions or movements, either by individual students or groups of students. (Night Dancer; Laughing River; Giraffes Can’t Dance)

Opportunities to Turn a Story into a Play

  • Turn narration into dialogue between characters. Add your own twist. Have some characters be puppets who interact with human performers. (Fables from Aesop, The Worst Band in the Universe, Jabuti, Three Billy Goats Gruff)

Opportunities for Accompaniment with Instruments

  • Use simple instruments such as rhythm sticks, maracas, drums, tambourines, etc. (Elmer; Max Found Two Sticks; What’s That Noise?)