Classroom Library


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This is a selection of books and the justification for why I would have each of them in my classroom library. Many of them are currently in my classroom library.

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Classroom Library

  1. 1. Classroom library and Readability Analysis Trade books: 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 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 Lorenz, R. (1993). Imogen Cunningham: Ideas without end a life and photographs. : Chronicle Books.
  2. 2. 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 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 and value. 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
  3. 3. 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 following page. Students would be able to select a poem and create a work of art inspired by this amazing poetry. 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 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. Children’s books: Gaiman, N., & McKean, D. (2004). The day I swapped my dad for two goldfish. : HarperCollins. 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 illustrating.
  4. 4. 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 reading. 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 medium. Scieszka, J., & Smith, L. (1995). Math curse. : Viking Juvenile.
  5. 5. 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. Reference books: 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 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
  6. 6. 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 at 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. Quantitative Analysis: SMOG = 15th grade (52+46+52=150 polysyllabic words; 12x12=144; 12+3=15)
  7. 7. Qualitative Analysis: 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 exemplification. 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.
  8. 8. 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. : Watson-Guptill Publications. 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 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. Quantitative Analysis: SMOG = 8th grade (9+5+3=17 polysyllabic syllables: 4x4=16; 5+3=8)
  9. 9. Le Guin, U. K. (2005). A fisherman of the inland sea: Stories. : Harper Perennial; Reprint edition. 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. Websites: Banksy, . (2006). Manifesto. Retrieved Sep. 30, 2005, from Banksy is an anonymous graffiti artist who lives and
  10. 10. 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 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. Reflection: 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
  11. 11. 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 kinds. 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 illustration.