9 Picture Book Biographies for American Artist Appreciation Month

From Jackie Ormes to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, these 9 picture books bring young readers into the lives of creatives who were born in the U.S. or spent years making art here. Share these titles to commemorate them and all artists.

From Jackie Ormes to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, these nine picture books bring young readers into the lives of creatives who were born in the U.S. or spent years making art here. Share these titles to commemorate them and all artists.

4 covers

Covered in Color: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Fabrics of Freedom by Elisa Boxer. illus. by Susanna Chapman. Abrams. ISBN 9781419756115. 
PreS-Gr 3–This is the story of two 20th-century artists who created artwork on a truly massive scale; they used huge pieces of fabric to wrap buildings to create colorful, beautiful, gigantic art. VERDICT The scale of the creations alone make for interesting study; young readers will be enthralled by the thinking and planning that went along with these massive undertakings.

You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce by Chiquita Mullins Lee & Carmella Van Vleet. illus. by Jennifer Mack-Watkins. Penguin/Kokila. ISBN 9780593406502. 
Gr 1-4–Elijah Pierce was an African American folk artist whose work was discovered by the art world late in life. His wood carvings, voice, and representation within the African American community are valuable. VERDICT A quality selection for informational books about artists and BIPOC individuals, this is likely to spark some real love in conversations surrounding the role of folk art, community outposts such as neighborhood barbershops, and more.

 Hope Is an Arrow: The Story of Lebanese-American Poet Kahlil Gibran by Cory McCarthy. illus. by Ekua Holmes. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536200324. 
K-Gr 4–This poignant, brilliant biography about Gibran Kahlil Gibran (The Prophet), a Lebanese and American poet and artist of international renown, creates a beautiful space for Gibran to live on for this generation. VERDICT A first purchase for all libraries serving children, this is a stunning biography.

 Only the Best: The Exceptional Life and Fashion of Ann Lowe by Kate Messner & Margaret E. Powell.  illus. by Erin Robinson. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452161600.
Gr 1-4–This picture book biography is as elegant as its subject—African American fashion designer Ann Lowe. Messner works with decorative arts historian Powell to present the life of Lowe who, despite facing immense racism as she developed her career in the early part of the 20th century, prevailed as one of the premier designers of her time. VERDICT A stylish biography worthy of inclusion on all shelves.

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 Jackie Ormes Draws the ­Future: The Remarkable Life of a Pioneering Cartoonist by Liz Montague. illus. by author. ­Random House Studio. ISBN 9780593426548. 
Gr 2-5–A glimpse of groundbreaking Black female American cartoonist Jackie Ormes, as told and illustrated by a groundbreaking Black female American cartoonist. VERDICT A must purchase for libraries. Its overarching theme of persistence will resonate with readers.

[Read: The Two Italian Brothers Who Influenced Modern Art]

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrap the World: The Story of Two Groundbreaking Environmental Artists by G Neri. illus. by Elizabeth Haidle. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536216615. 
Gr 2-5–The life and creations of this enigmatic couple are the subjects of this book, which covers the nature of art and its role in society. VERDICT A fascinating look into the creative process, this title is worthy of addition to most collections for its biographical material as well as its value for engaging young people in a discussion about the nature of art and the artistic process.

 Finding My Dance by Ria Thundercloud. illus. by Kalila J. Fuller. Penguin Workshop. ISBN 9780593093894. 
Gr 3-5–The artist known as “Beautiful Thunder Woman” chronicles her career. She traveled across the country with her family dancing the “Pow Wow Trail.” Eventually, she danced her way around the world. VERDICT A warmly illustrated memoir of dance and culture, this will have broad appeal about using art for expression and to overcome difficulties.

 Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes by Traci N Todd. illus. by Shannon Wright. Orchard. ISBN 9781338305906. 
Gr 2-5–An outstanding picture book biography about a groundbreaking Renaissance woman. Ormes was the first nationally syndicated Black woman cartoonist. She also started a strip called Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger about two sisters, which she used to comment on Black life, World War II and its aftermath, and the fight for justice. VERDICT An extraordinary picture book biography about an extraordinary pioneer in comics and journalism that deserves a spot on every shelf.

David Hockney by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. illus. by Ana Albero. Frances Lincoln. ISBN 9780711285491. 
K-Gr 3–The life of David Hockney, a living artist now in his late 80s. His family supported his goals and, justly, his first painting sold was of his father. The book is frank about Hockney’s homosexuality without being explicit. VERDICT This will be a staple on early elementary art shelves.

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