Let me preface this by saying that I am not a parent (and likely will never become one). I’m not an expert in childhood development or early education. What I am is an art historian who believes that it’s really important for kids to learn about art. Art reflects its time of production, and yet is somehow able to transcend time completely. Art History isn’t actually separate from History (with a capital H) Maybe it seems kind of obvious, but when that notion hit me, it hit hard. Art is history, plain and simple. It’s places and people, stories and politics. It doesn’t have to be boring. Get kids passionate about art, and they will become passionate about history.
I am sure education has changed since I was a kid, but I remember being both somehow bored and bewildered by “Social Studies,” even though it was actually my favorite subject. There were massive, massive gaps in my early education. Learning about art and material culture can help fill those gaps, and a little extracurricular Art History education can provide visual substance for kids who need it.
File this under: Museum Stuff and Art School Dropout.
Bear with me a bit, because even though this is a small list, these are all over the place as far as content goes. But, so is art. If you do have children, take cues from them about what their interests are. You probably do a lot of that already. These books are good places to start, but there are hundreds more. I’ve included some general art books as well as a few artist and period specific books that shine a little more brightly in my eyes. I think these are books that a child can enjoy either on her own or with parent involvement. Nota bene: The titles below will take you to Amazon, and are affiliate links. I will receive a commission for any sales made through the use of those links.
13 Art Movements Children Should Know I’ve actually heard great things about this entire series, but I like Movements in particular because it lays out, very simply, that historical context I was babbling about at the start of this post. This one is useful for Art History undergrads, too. Trust me. Take a break from your flash cards.
Can You Find It? and Can You Find It, Too? I Spy meets art. These interactive search-and-find books from the Metropolitan Museum of Art focus on tiny details in famous works. There are a number of titles in this series, but these two are the originals. Ages 5-9.
illus. Deborah Kogan Ray / Mary Azarian
Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain I’m not sure if you knew (you probably do), but Hokusai is one of my favorite of favorites. Lots and lots of Art History education tends to focus on European art, and I get it, but amazing things were happening in Asia, too, long before they “opened” to the West. We’re talking printmaking and mass production, which are definitely of historical importance. Hokusai was doing his thing from about 1786, so the same general era as Neoclassical and Romanticism in Europe. This book not only includes a glimpse into Hokusai’s sketchbook, but is thoughtfully illustrated by the author. Ages 7-12. I want this for me. Deborah Kogan Ray has also written a book about one of my childhood favorites: Wanda Gág, author of (the sweet, but somewhat dark tale) Millions of Cats.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden I read this book in the second grade, and I was obsessed. I checked it out from the library as often as I could. This was my first ever Art History book, published in 1987! It’s a dreamy, sweet little story about a girl discovering Claude Monet. It does a beautiful job of weaving narrative with bits and pieces of Monet’s life. The illustrations reflect Monet’s work in perfectly soft way. Ages 4-8.
Snowflake Bentley This is both a photography and science book! Wilson Bentley spent fifty years of his life perfecting the process of photographing snowflakes with the use of a microscope, and he discovered that no two snowflakes are ever alike. Every elementary school student in Vermont is familiar with his story. His starkly beautiful silver gelatin prints can be seen at the Smithsonian and other museums. This book, illustrated with woodcuts by Vermonter Mary Azarian is another that is near and dear to my heart. Ages 4-7.
The Art Book for Children This is another general knowledge book that has received high praise. The Art Book covers thirty well known artists, both classic and contemporary, and their works. Ages 7+. First in a series.
illus. Hadley Hooper / Anja Klauss
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse This is a beautifully illustrated book about Matisse as a boy. Ages 4-8.
The Little Hippo: A Children’s Book Inspired by Egyptian Art I think every kid goes probably goes through an Egyptology phase. And I think it’s okay to support that interest without stressing out too much about repatriation. That’s an issue that can certainly be addressed later, maybe by chatting with a museum docent. This is a book for younger children, probably ages 4-8. Note that it does deal a little bit with death, as most books on Egyptian art are likely to.
I’d recommend, if you are able, that you check out a museum or its website on your own before bringing your kids. Choose a handful of works (or even just one or two pieces) to visit and talk about with them, anything you think they’ll love. Don’t worry about seeing the whole museum, and don’t necessarily worry about seeing what’s famous, though obviously famous works have their merit. Take your time. Let your kids obsess over something seemingly insignificant. Let them stare at it for ages. Because here’s the thing: there are some works at the MFA Boston that I will visit over and over again, run to every time. There is a bronze drum in the Asian art galleries adorned with tiny frogs. There is Isabella and the Pot of Basil. There is The Fog Warning. There is no rhyme or reason to what I love, and it doesn’t really matter. Nothing is insignificant, so indulge in their obsessions. You let them obsess over cartoon character franchises, so let them obsess over works of art.
If you have any favorite art books of your own, please share them in the comments! It’s good to hear from actual parents.
It never hurts to take a little time to reflect and process.
June is going to be a big month, for me, one that will be (I hope) full of positive change. I recently left my job, which is as much of a relief as it is terrifying. While I feel like the word “toxic” is way overused (ugh), I 100% believe that retail, especially the weird secondhand corner of the retail world my former employer resides in, can be an extremely toxic environment. It certainly took its toll on me. After four and half years, it was time for a change. There were some great days, though, for sure. Treasured objects and people.
I worked hard on my college degree, learning about the things I loved, only to gently push it aside, waiting for “later.” Now that I’m fully dedicated to grad school, I realize that I’ve been missing out. A lot of that comes from insecurity and uncertainty, for sure, because I worry that maybe I waited too long, or that I didn’t look for the right opportunities. There are a lot of what ifs. I’ve never been a big risk-taker. I’m worried that younger, ballsier people will leave me in the dust. They probably will. I don’t know how to do my makeup, and I wear too much black, and I never know what to say, or what to do with my hands when people are talking to me. That being said, I guess I’d rather be trying and failing than just continuing to float semi-miserably along.
The difficult thing now is to transition. I’ve been working retail since undergrad, because it always paid the bills. That’s eight years under my belt in a world I really don’t want to be a part of any longer. So where to go from here?
That remains the question.
I’m cleaning out my desk drawer in preparation for moving. Things are slowly going into boxes. There’s a lot of clutter to get rid of, papers to sift through. I want to start fresh, but there are some things I will always take with me. I really don’t think you can ever just drop everything and go. Maybe some people can.
There is a dress in a box in my closet that I’ve had since I lived in Burlington. I bought it on clearance at Urban Outfitters, my second year at UVM. That knowledge is not special; I know where and when all my clothing has come from. There is nothing spectacular about this dress. Despite not currently being able to fit into it, or even wanting to be able to fit into it (it’s equivalent, I think, to a size 2, like no that is not happening), I haven’t been able to let it go. It doesn’t represent anything in particular, at least nothing I can put a finger on. At that point, I was still trying to figure things out. There is nothing about this dress that I even like. The colors aren’t me, the material makes me sweat, and the cut is not even remotely flattering. I finally managed to move it from a hanger to a donation box a few months ago. I haven’t looked at it since, I do not miss it, and yet for some reason I couldn’t be bothered to get that box of donations out the door.
That box is gone this week. The fact that it’s even occupying any part of my brain is seriously driving me batty.
This full moon means beautiful things are afoot. June is a month that has often left me feeling a little empty. There are memories here that will always be with me. If I can take even some of that sadness and turn it into something new and good, I will consider it a success.
The friends I used to drink cider and howl at the moon with are three hours and a mountain range or two away, but summer makes me think of them.
This blog has many purposes. I am not a baker, a foodie, a DIY maven, or even a beauty product junky or a fashionista. I’m not an amateur photographer. I am not a graphic designer. My family is small (it consists of Timothy and a tortoise). My current job is a semi-miserable inbetweener. I am shy, and awkward, and not very pretty. I am not an expert in anything. I am intelligent, but sometimes have a hard time communicating. I am an introvert. Sometimes I am too angry, or too anxious. I am also sometimes incredibly depressed. None of these things make for good blogging. What is there left to share? This place continues to grow.
The things that do find a way onto this wordspace, in some form or another, are the things I care about. These are the things I want to share.
I’ve made a list, included mistakes and misthoughts. This is girldust. I do not want to pigeonhole this space, or myself.
It’s spring. I am officially calling it, try to stop me. The tall maple in front of Timothy’s parents’ house was alive with bird song and shadows on Wednesday. New Englanders, when we peel away our winter layers, become brand new creatures.
Move forward into the sunshine.
1. Wash your sheets, blankets, and pillow cases. Make your bed.
2. Make friends with your feet. Winter boots have been unkind. Sit in the sun with a warm salt soak and follow up with a well-deserved massage. You won’t realize how much they ached until you’re done. Soon the snow will be gone and you can let your toes breathe.
3. Sort through your books; pass along the ones you won’t read again. Re-read your favorite. In your freshly made bed.
4. Indulge in your favorite scented candle. Let it burn.
5. Clear out your browser bookmarks. Unsubscribe from mailing lists. Delete social media accounts you don’t follow. It feels so good. I actually cleaned out four year’s worth of browser bookmarks last night, and I felt like a new person.
6. Then turn off your electronics. All of them. Have an adventure you don’t document. Let it be only yours.
7. You have a Goodwill pile. I know you do. Bring it in before the summer rush hits (before college gets out in May, if you live in a college town). I need to take my own advice for this one; I have five plastic shopping bags sitting on my floor.
8. Buy yourself a really quality bar of chocolate.
9. Write in a paper journal. Write a letter. Have you forgotten what your handwriting looks like?
10. Go to bed early. Wake up without an alarm. Stretch. See the world before anyone else.
11. Recycle. Compost. Find a comfortable way to reduce your consumption and your waste.
12. Teach yourself a new skill, take a class, or find a new hobby.
13. Take a break from processed food. A meal, a day, a weekend. Whatever is easiest.
14. Hand wash and line dry your lingerie.
15. It’s almost time for fresh fruit and vegetables. I can’t even deal. Look up a local CSA.
16. Buy a new pair of lightweight comfy socks.
17. Go to a new-to-you local restaurant for a weeknight dinner or happy hour.
18. Remind yourself, daily, of all the things you love.
19. If you have a supplies stash, put it to use. Take an afternoon to yourself to be creative.
20. Replace your bath pouf.
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Thanks for stopping by. My name is Naomi, and this space is made of girldust. This blog is a picture of my comfortably scattered life on the coast of Maine. I'm trying to be a slightly better version of myself every day. I like old houses, reading, the ocean, ghost stories, and museums. You can learn a little bit more about me here. Follow along elsewhere, or get in touch: