The best picture books about artistic expression

Who am I?

As a children’s writer I have to draw on my own creativity, celebrate my own ideas and quash self-doubt every time I work on a story. I teach creative writing, run workshops, and visit schools regularly – above all, I want to instill courage and the love of bold imagination in children. Picture book age children have such fantastic creativity and joyous wonder at the world around them. How wonderful to see that creative energy reflected back in a story which will hopefully spark more journeys into wonderful invented places, spaces, pictures, and tales. Imagination has brought me such great joy, I hope I can pass a spark of that onwards...


I wrote...

Calm Down, Zebra

By Lou Kuenzler, Julia Woolf (illustrator),

Book cover of Calm Down, Zebra

What is my book about?

Gorgeously illustrated with extra shimmer and shine, Calm Down, Zebra explores artistic self-expression in a bright, bold and free-thinking way. Through funny rhyming text, the picture book story aims to inspire creativity and an appreciation of colour in every young artist. Enthusiastic Zebra is eager to get in on the act as Annie tries to teach her little brother about colours. But although things don't turn out quite the way she imagines, together they make the world a brighter and more beautiful place!

"A joy to read aloud . . . guaranteed to win the hearts of all little mischief-makers." - Lancashire Post

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Day the Crayons Quit

By Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers (illustrator),

Book cover of The Day the Crayons Quit

Why this book?

A glorious, mini rebellion of colour and newfound artistic freedom. This deservedly popular picture book is as smart and funny as the youngsters it is aimed at.  Each new character we meet is wonderfully individual and uniquely creative. A rainbow of inspiration! Who knew we could care about crayons so much? Bliss!


Vera Jewel Is Late for School

By Nicola Kent,

Book cover of Vera Jewel Is Late for School

Why this book?

When determined Vera is late for school, she uses her wild, funny, and inventive creativity to save the day.  This hilarious and original story is buzzing with resourcefulness and passion. It is perfect for learning about standing on your own two feet - and being rewarded for hard work and inventiveness along the way! 


Bob the Artist

By Marion Deuchars,

Book cover of Bob the Artist

Why this book?

With simple and stunning illustrations we see long-legged Bob the bird learn to celebrate himself with a relaxed and creative flourish. Once seen, you will never forget those wonderful knobbly knees! Bob’s adventures cleverly and accessibly introduce art appreciation in a whole new way as he celebrates not only his own individuality but that of great artists too.


Matisse's Magical Trail

By Tim Hopgood, Sam Boughton (illustrator),

Book cover of Matisse's Magical Trail

Why this book?

What a wonderfully creative idea it is to imagine a snail who draws beautiful art with his very own snail trail. This bold and colourful picture book encourages children to notice the small things all around them and delight in the details. This warm story encourages self-expression and celebrates the world around us (big and small) in every colour of the rainbow.


The Pencil

By Allan Ahlberg, Bruce Ingman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Pencil

Why this book?

This witty, quirky, ever-escalating modern classic celebrates burgeoning creativity and rubs out the criticism of others and our own self-doubt! A joyous squiggle of a story with the eponymous Pencil as a hero. How often does our own creativity – especially when we are little – begin with a single pencil line?


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in art, loneliness, and birds?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about art, loneliness, and birds.

Art Explore 103 books about art
Loneliness Explore 25 books about loneliness
Birds Explore 121 books about birds

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Word Collector, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, and The Seven Silly Eaters if you like this list.