Classroom library and Readability Analysis
Berger, J. (1996). A painter of our time. : Vintage.
This novel is the first novel written after former painter,
John Berger, decided to devote his life to writing in order
to reach a wider audience. This piece of information
lends credence to the main character who is a
Hungarian, self-exiled painter living in post-war London
and returning to Hungary later in the story. It is a true to
life description of what it really means to be a working
artist without the Hollywood glamour of romantic fits of
depression, drugs and sex. This painter leads a difficult
life with a mediocre marriage. As well as introducing
one to the brutal truths of being professional artist it also manages to speak of
famous painters, Art History, Theory and Criticism in an engaging and accessible
manner, even for those who bring no prior-knowledge on these topics to the
novel. (Adapted from the reviews on Amazon.com).
Because it is written in the format of someone’s journal I would like to incorporate
it into a semester long journaling exercise that would allow the students to write
their own experiences of being an artist.
Berger, J. (2000). I send you this Cadmium red. : Actar.
Color theory can be horribly mundane and dry or it can
be alive and vibrant (much like colors themselves). This
book brings to life a discussion of Color, Art History,
Bookmaking, and Literature through a collection of
notes, letters, envelopes and drawings actually sent
between two great artists and Renaissance Men of our
time, John Berger and John Christie. This book could
be used solely as a point of interest in a lesson on Color
Theory or as a starting point for a project on
Bookmaking and the vast possibilities of this art form.
(Adapted from Reviewer: Leslie Winakur on Amazon.com).
Lorenz, R. (1993). Imogen Cunningham: Ideas without end a
life and photographs. : Chronicle Books.
As a woman photographer at the turn of the century,
Imogen Cunningham took the art of photography
places no woman (and frequently no men) had ever
taken it before. Her photographs range from close-
ups of flowers, everyday objects, and the subtle
nude to her portraits of the famous photographers
and artists of that era. This book contains 100 of her
images, many of them never seen in print before.
Her life story is laid out for the reader to peruse
along with the photographs. (Adapted from the Book
Description on Amazon.com).
The story of Cunningham’s life can serve as an inspiration for women and girls of
any age who aspire to make it in a field dominated by men. A lesson could be
built around each student creating a portrait of a friend (through photography or
drawing) in the style of Cunningham. The portrait would have to tell a story about
this individual through this one still image.
McKean, D. (1995). Small book of black and white lies. : Allen Spiegel Fine Arts.
Dave McKean, best known for his digitally enhanced
illustrations of Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels, shows his
prowess with the more traditional media of black and
white film as well as his ability to fool the viewer with his
digital capabilities. The images are stunning and mind-
boggling for their attention to detail and impossibly
surrealistic nature created (for half of them anyway) only
through the magic of a film camera and a darkroom.
If I were able to teach a photography class to High Schoolers I would use this
book for examples of interesting still-lifes that the students could attempt to
mimic. A more advanced lesson could follow in which the students then
attempted a similar project, but through digital media. Even if there was no
photography class these images could be shared when talking about composition
The layout of the book is very interesting and could be a topic of discussion as
well. There is very little to read, but it is of great importance. It states that the
first half of the book are all traditional film images while the second half are all
digital. Trying to distinguish between the two is almost impossible. He is truly a
master of deception.
Neruda, P., & Kerrigan, A. (1990). Pablo Neruda: Selected poems (edición
bilingüe). : Mariner Books.
Neruda, as a well-known Latino poet, is an excellent addition to
the classroom both for the Latino and non-Latino students alike.
Those who are of other ethnic backgrounds will be able to gain
from the exposure to a truly great writer of non-European heritage.
Those who are of Latino culture will get a chance to learn more
about and feel proud of their background, which can often be
degraded in our society. Students who are still learning English
will be able to easily access this book as well as native speakers
because it is written in Spanish but translated to English on the
Students would be able to select a poem and create a work of art inspired by this
Teicher, H. (2002). Trisha Brown: Dance and art in dialogue. : The MIT Press.
Trisha Brown, a dancer in the early 1960’s
collaborated with visual artists of her time to create
large-scale art pieces, which she referred to as
"movement-images" and were incorporated into her
sets. This book contains photos along with the story
of her career and her collaborations. (Adapted from
the Book Description at Amazon.com).
A collaborative project between my art class and the
theatre class/department could be arranged for a
production that included Brown style pieces of art
made by the art class.
Gaiman, N., & McKean, D. (2004). The day I swapped my dad for two goldfish. :
There is an African Legend which tells a similar story to this
children’s book in which a boy beings by swapping one
thing for another and ends with what he started out with in
the beginning. This idea of taking very old stories, or stories
from different cultures and modernizing and making them
your own could be used in a lesson on story writing and
Gaiman, N., & McKean, D. (2005). The wolves in the walls. : HarperTrophy.
This book is about a family who has wolves living in their
house. One day, after being warned by their young
daughter but not listening to her, the wolves come out of
the walls and take over the house. The family must then
find a way to get their house back. It is a story with very
simple vocabulary and repetition of words. The level of
writing should be accessible to students with reading
difficulties and English Language Learners. The highly
sophisticated, mixed-media illustrations are a way to
push these students who may be advanced artist despite their difficulties with
I could use this book in combination with The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two
Goldfish, by the same author and artist, as a way of making a lesson on book
writing and illustration (such as I’ve written with the graphic novel Stardust) more
accessible for students at a lower reading and writing level.
Another similar lesson would focus on the digital nature of the art in both of these
books. I would use the graphic novel, Signal to Noise also written by Gaiman
and illustrated by McKean, in conjunction with these two books to teach about
digital art and mixed media. Students could then create their own children’s’
stories or graphic novels involving original drawings/paintings and digital
alteration and formatting.
Muth, J. J. (2005). Zen shorts. : Scholastic Press.
This children’s’ story has beautiful, unique watercolor
illustrations with straightforward Zen stories appropriate
for all age levels. This book would be one of many that I
could use as an exemplar for a story writing and
illustrating lesson. Because water-color painting can be
seen as a very non-relevant/boring activity by this age
range the unusual illustrations would be great for helping
students see the wide range of possibilities of the
Scieszka, J., & Smith, L. (1995). Math curse. : Viking Juvenile.
Art, Math and Poetry are combined in this tantalizing
children’s’ book about a student who struggles with
math until one day her teacher points out all the ways
that math permeates her life. From then on she is
cursed with being able to see Math everywhere she
goes and in everything she does.
I would have students each write a poem and design
the page for one math problem. We could then publish
it and donate it to an Elementary or Middle School for
the students to read and learn from. I would encourage my students to find the
Math in the art that they are making for the illustrations just as the girl in the book
finds Math in her world.
Boswell, J. (1992). The annotated Mona Lisa: A crash course in art history from
prehistoric to post-modern. : Andrews McMeel Publishing.
Every student should have a basic understanding of Art
History (especially since it is part of the TEKS) and yet it is
something that most students find dry and distasteful.
The Annotated Mona Lisa is just the cure for this problem.
It is full of high quality photos of art with brief but helpful
margin notes. The text is kept to a minimum but contains
interesting facts while minimizing the amount of dense
theory and personal beliefs with which many Art History
books are unfortunately saturated. (Adapted from the
Book Description at Amazon.com).
This book should be able to reach students at many levels because they can
choose to learn from the images and notes or go deeper into the actual text.
Overhead projections made from this book would be a great way to introduce
various artists and works.
Gowing, L. (1983). A biographical dictionary of artists (the encyclopedia of visual
art). : Prentice-Hall.
Although this reference book focuses mostly on Western
artists including a few Oriental artists as well, it is an easy to
navigate source of information for the great and near-great
artists from ancient to modern times. Full of illustrations
and concise descriptions of the artists arranged in
alphabetical order it is accessible to readers who have little
to no background in Art History. (Adapted from the Book Description at
This book would server as a great starting off point for mini-research projects
about artists which could end with the student producing a work in keeping with
the style of their chosen artist.
Nicholas, M., & N., M. (2002). The visual culture reader. : Routledge; 2 edition.
This is a collection of essays about relevant, modern
visual culture today. The essays range in topic from
the bombing of the World Trade Center and how it
was portrayed on television to billboards, movies,
and modern art. (Adapted from the Book Description
The reading level is very advanced. Therefore this
book would either rely heavily on scaffolding in the
classroom or need to be used with individual gifted
and talented students. It’s connection to art in the
real world makes it an indispensable book nonetheless. Students could use it as
a basis for their own culturally responsive projects within the classroom or
possible even out in the real world.
SMOG = 15th grade
(52+46+52=150 polysyllabic words; 12x12=144; 12+3=15)
Adaptation of the Aughan and Estes Qualitative Readability Assessment:
This text rates highly under the categories of Emphasis, Unity and Coherence as
each of the essays included in it are very well written pieces. It also brings
abstract concepts to a level of concreteness and clarity through excellent
Where the text is lacking is in an appropriate use and repetition of vocabulary.
This is highly advanced reading material for a High School classroom but its
content is extremely relevant and interesting. This piece of text would be a
useful resource for gifted and talented students.
Part One: Readability Factors inherent in Text:
Vocabulary and sentence structure are highly difficult due to large amounts on
new vocabulary, long sentence structure and an assumption of prior knowledge
much higher than will probably be the case for the average high schooler.
Interest level is very high due to the everyday relevance of the subject matter.
This information is laid out in a very coherent and unifying manner. Each chapter
is an essay by a different author, which adds variety and lends itself to easily
digestible amounts of information.
Sidaway, I. (2002). Color mixing bible: All you'll ever need to know about mixing
pigments in oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, soft pastel, pencil, and ink. :
For the beginning artist this book is a godsend. The Color
Mixing Bible covers the science of color, the various color
media and the physical how-tos of mixing as well as
including beautiful illustrations every step of the way.
(Adapted from the Book Description at Amazon.com).
For a student who may be intimidated by or struggling with
color, this reference could be better than any lecture to help
them figure it out and be successful at using color. Because of its use of science
to explain the colors, some sections of the book could be used in a lesson where
science/color experiments were undertaken in the classroom.
Young Adult Novels:
Gaiman, N., & Vess, C. (1997). Stardust: Being a romance within the realms of
faerie. : DC Comics.
This book tells the story of a boy searching for a fallen
star in order to win the heart of the young woman he has
fallen in love with (even though she’s a real big jerk). He
turns out not to be the nicest person in the world either.
Through the trials and turmoil of retrieving the fallen star
(who takes the form of a young woman now that she has
fallen) the boy, the girl and the fallen star find out who
they really are and become better people. The
accompanying illustrations are quite lovely.
As a graphic novel, this book lends itself to an interdisciplinary lesson on writing
and drawing/painting/illustrating along with the graphic novels, Sandman: The
Dream Hunters, Signal to Noise, and other issues of the Sandman series. I
would use these books in combination to show a few of the different writing and
illustrating styles out there. I could see this lesson becoming a cooperative
learning exercise with small groups of students working together to write,
illustrate, design and draw fonts, color/paint, bind and do layout for a small
graphic novel of their own.
SMOG = 8th grade
(9+5+3=17 polysyllabic syllables: 4x4=16; 5+3=8)
Le Guin, U. K. (2005). A fisherman of the inland sea: Stories. : Harper Perennial;
This collection of short stories is so full of
visualizations it practically cries out for someone to
illustrate it. Each story is completely different and yet
they all discuss the same thing - human relations.
Many of the stories are short word sketches or very
poetic short prose.
These lend themselves to visualizing activities where
the stories are read aloud to the students while they
create abstract or realistic compositions in response
to the reading. I would also like to assign some of
the longer stories for students to actually illustrate.
Banksy, . (2006). Manifesto. Retrieved Sep. 30, 2005, from
Banksy is an anonymous graffiti artist who lives and
creates political graffiti art in London. His Manifesto is “An extract from the diary
of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was among the first British
soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945.” It tells the story of some
concentration camp survivors who receive a crate of lipstick as part of the
supplies sent to relieve their suffering and the effect the lipstick has on them.
I think this would make an interesting discussion piece in the classroom.
Discussing why he chose to use this as his manifesto, what he’s trying to say and
if it works. Each of the students could then write their own manifesto. I would
bring this up mid-semester, but then allow them to work on it until the end and
have the present the collection of art they’d produced along with their manifesto.
National Gallery of Art. (2006). The art of Romare Bearden. Retrieved Sep. 30,
2005, from http://www.nga.gov/feature/bearden/sub1.shtm
This site allows the viewer to click through four sections of
Bearden’s life: Biography, Stories, Landscapes and Art History.
Each section is accompanied by some photographs of his
works. Bearden was a black artist who created his art from the
1930’s up until he died in 1988. His work is a combination of
painting, photography and collage depicting, among other
things, black life in America and the seascapes of the Caribbean.
This site would lend itself to a Jigsaw activity where the students were divided
up into 4 (or 8 depending on the size of the class) groups was assigned one of
the 4 sections on the website. Each group would create a collaborative piece of
art in the style of Romare Bearden and then share both their information and
their work with the rest of the class.
Choosing texts for my classroom has been truly delightful. Many of these books I
already own or have read in the past and do plan on using in my lessons. The
new ones, such as the novels by John Berger, were an exciting find. The
reference books were difficult to choose just because there are so many good
ones out there and they cover so many different areas. In reality I hope that I will
be able to find a good textbook to use for general reference and then supplement
it with a few well-chosen handbooks on techniques and media. The two art
history books I chose for their clarity and interestability. The color reference book
was just too good to pass up.
Many of the books I chose are children’s books or graphic novels. I adore the
way art and literature are brought together in these formats. They are an
excellent object lesson on one of the many ways art can be applied to a job in the
real world. There are a few graphic novels such as Maus, which I did not include
in the list but would probably make it into my classroom library eventually. There
are many books that are explicitly about art and/or artists (such as the books
about Trisha Brown and Imogen Cunningham) that could have been included but
I wanted to focus on books that might be more unexpected and therefore have
more of an impact on the students.
I’m sure I will develop a strong relationship with the librarians at my school and
use them as a source for classroom reading material as well. In my experience
school librarians are a priceless resource and will be able to guide me to
wonderful reference materials as well as interesting and unexpected texts of all
As stated with each of the books themselves, I plan on using the books in
lessons that range from journaling and writing one’s own manifesto to
collaborative, interdisciplinary pieces inspired by famous artists and book