Introduction to Art - Difficulty Level: 9 yo Bilingual Boy
November 3, 2014 7:10 AM   Subscribe

My oldest nephew is turning 9 in a few months' time and I want to give him a book. He's smart, introverted, sensitive, and he loves drawing. I thought he would enjoy a book about how to look at art. More info and added difficulties inside!

When I was my oldest nephew's age, I discovered a book at my local library that took well-known paintings and got you to really look at them, discover small details, and tell stories about what you could see. From cave art via Pieter Brughel's The Hunters in the Snow to Matisse's The Snail, I learned how art is many things and how art sparks the imagination.

I have no idea where to find the right book for my nephew as I grew up in another country. I have looked at Amazon and various galleries but cannot match up anything with his age. Added difficulty: my nephew is bilingual (Turkish/English). I'm in the UK.

Can you help me find a suitable book or do you have any recommendations?
posted by kariebookish to Shopping (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Look at the websites for the major art museums. The Metropolitan Museum of Art should have something perfect. If you live near an art museum, go there to see stuff in person. Even modest museums often have lovely gift shops with carefully curated art theme books. I think they know well meaning grandparents are on the hunt for classy presents.

Maybe something like this?
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:44 AM on November 3, 2014

Here's one from the Chicago Institute of Art shop that's specifically for kids, about looking at art.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:49 AM on November 3, 2014

Best answer: This looks like exactly what you're after

Yes, the big galleries all have excellent bookshops. If you're near London you're spoiled for choice, but most big cities should have something.

As a child I remember going on children's tours of the Tate and being taught how to look at art in an accessible way. Your nephew might enjoy the same thing if it's available near him.
posted by mymbleth at 7:50 AM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry missed you are in the UK, but you can still use any gallery's site to find things and then order them on
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:54 AM on November 3, 2014

The books and videos are for adults, but I've always thought Sister Wendy has wonderful, clear descriptions of artworks and art history. Terrific insight.
posted by ecorrocio at 9:08 AM on November 3, 2014

'Understanding Comics' is a fantasia book about comics/ graphing novels that any 9 year old would LOVE
posted by genmonster at 10:54 AM on November 3, 2014

Best answer: The Metropolitan Museum certainly has books like this aimed at teaching art appreciation to kids. I'd be shocked if the big British art museums (the Tate? the National Gallery?) don't have their own versions centered around their collections. Most big museums have online stores, if it's not convenient to shop in person. Additionally, if you're an Amazon person, the museum web stores can be an easier way to narrow down the choices and find something good.

I'll also second Sister Wendy (we had her Story Of Art coffee table book when I was growing up, and it was a huge introduction to art for me), though IIRC her writing might be a tad sexually frank for a nine year old. That said, I don't know if I actually read the text of those big hulking art coffee table books at that age. Also, I'm sure she's done a specifically kid-appropriate thing at some point.

Re being bilingual, I don't understand how that makes it harder? If he reads both English and Turkish, a book written in English should be fine. And it being a book about art, even if his English isn't up to snuff, I'm sure whatever you get will be fine. My grandparents used to send me French children's books all the time and they were enjoyed every bit as much despite the fact that I had only the most rudimentary French.
posted by Sara C. at 11:05 AM on November 3, 2014

Best answer: I loved the DK Annotated Art book as a kid, which looks like it's been republished as Art Explained. It's simply 45 paintings from various periods of European art history (approximately medieval to modern) covered with little annotations pointing out the symbolism of the gadgets in Holbein's The Ambassadors or the meaning of all the crazy stuff going down in Bruegel's Netherlandish Proverbs. It's not specifically intended for children, but all of the annotations are brief enough that they're not intimidating. That book was one of my regular "sit and stare at for hours" favorites when I was around that age.
posted by theodolite at 1:07 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh and Gombrich's unavoidable The Story of Art is extremely intimidating in size, but the writing is accessible (may be a little too much now, but perfect in a few years) and nothing beats it for getting a real feel for the history of art. Get a nice edition with the large, glossy reproductions and he can pore over it even before he's up for reading the text.
posted by mymbleth at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2014

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