The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse Book Poster Image
Bold, beautiful book is sure to fire up kids’ creativity.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A note at the end of the book tells about artist Franz Marc, whose work inspired the book, and how Carle became acquainted with his banned work as a child in Nazi Germany. That bit of history may be over the heads of young readers, but it’s a jumping-off point for families to talk about art and its influence.

Positive Messages

Carle celebrates creativity and taking pride in your efforts -- no matter how unconventional they may be. Art, he shows simply, is great fun.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The artist produces a series of inventive works, each more outlandish than the last, and proudly proclaims himself "a good artist." He’s confident, creative, and prolific.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that they should have art materials at the ready when they share this charming book with their kids. Eric Carle aims to inspire young artists to unleash their creativity, and the call is impossible to resist.

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What's the story?

An artist stands before a canvas and paints a galloping blue horse, followed by an array of fantastic creatures including a pink rabbit, a green lion, a black polar bear, and a polka-dotted donkey. At the end, he stands by his horse painting and declares: "I am a good artist."

Is it any good?

Eric Carle uses his familiar collage technique to wonderful effect. Each page bursts with color and texture, and the animal lope, leap, and pose in vivid compositions. Text is minimal and declarative, focusing readers’ attention on the joyfully inventive artwork and the artist’s pride in his work.

The book’s simplicity offers plenty of opportunity for families to explore the book’s themes on their own, from talking about how art can inspire to creating your own artwork.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about creativity and imagination. Talk about how the animals are unlike anything you might see in real life, and ask your child what crazy colors he might paint.

  • This book was inspired by the work of Franz Marc, whose Blue Horse I is reproduced in the end pages. Look at Marc’s horse and then at the one painted by the boy in the story, and talk about their similarities and differences. Explain how the author was inspired to create this book, and encourage your child to create artwork inspired by the book.

  • Carle creates his collages using hand-painted papers. Look closely at the illustrations to see how he creates textures by dragging objects through the paint. Get out some paint, brushes, and paper and encourage your child to experiment. Offer craft sticks, toothpicks, cotton swaps, or even toy cars to make designs on the painted paper.

Book details

  • Author: Eric Carle
  • Illustrator: Eric Carle
  • Genre: Arts
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Philomel
  • Publication date: October 4, 2011
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 3 - 6
  • Number of pages: 32
  • Last updated: November 8, 2018

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