I thought perhaps it was time to do a post about some favorite children's books that, while not specifically "art books", could certainly inspire art lessons. Then I discovered that I'd already written that post, about two years ago! You can find it HERE.
Bill Peet. If you've never come across any of the books by Peet, you are actually still likely to be familiar with much of his work, because, besides being an author/illustrator of children's books, he also spent 27 years working at Disney as a story writer/illustrator. He left Disney after a disagreement with Walt Disney, and then continued his career writing and illustrating children's books.
In the shelves of books saved from my son's childhood, I found that he had four books by Peet. Three of these books are a selection are storybooks, and the fourth (on the left in the photo above) is an autobiography written for an intended audience of upper elementary age children. The black & white images below are from this autobiography. His books are filled with rich drawings of animals, both real and imaginary, trains, cars, buildings, and much more.
One of Peet's most compelling books is The Wump World, a book with a strong environmental warning. It may remind you in spirit of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax, but Peet's book was published first, about a year before The Lorax. Here's a few images from The Wump World.
Here's a few more pages from the Peet books that we own, including Cowardly Clyde, and Cock-a-Doodle Dudley. I think, if you were looking for lesson inspiration, Peet's books could be motivation for using illustrations to tell a story, and inventing creatures, and are wonderful examples of using value to create forms.
One of my favorite Peet books can be somewhat controversial, and years ago I made the mistake of selecting it to read to a 2nd grade class in my school district, when I was invited as a 'guest reader'. That book is The Gnats of Knotty Pine. The story takes place at the start of hunting season. The animals in the forest band together to chase away the hunters. Unfortunately, the school district where I taught is located in the rural foothills of the Adirondacks of NY, an area very popular for hunting. I would guess that easily 3/4 of my students lived in homes where there are hunting rifles, and where many of these students have been hunting with a parent, and possibly even own their own guns. Venison is a frequent meal at the dinner table. The kids did not understand the anti-hunting stance of this book!
If you've never encountered a book by Bill Peet, I strongly recommend it!