The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse — Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

Author/Illustrator: Eric Carle

Publisher: New York: Penguin/Philomel, 2011

Genre: Picture book, fiction, homage to artist Franz Marc

Audience Age: 3-9

Themes/Topics: art, artistic freedom, color, nonconformity, joy in art, confidence in creativity

Opening Sentences: I am an artist and I paint… a blue horse and…

Synopsis: This book is a simple celebration of a child’s joy in art, color and creativity. There is no storyline or plot, it simply shows the fantastical colors the child artist uses to paint familiar animals, indicating to the kids who are looking at the book that they don’t need to be constrained by what is “proper” or what is “usually done” in art.


Provide art supplies and give kids free rein to depict whatever they want, with whatever medium and colors strikes their fancy.

Talk about imagination and the fun of seeing and expressing things differently than usual.

TeacherVision has a lesson plan for this book.

Penguin has a link to a pdf teacher’s guide on the “Teachers and Librarians” page.

Incredible @rt Department has a collage activity for kids to experience for themselves the method Eric Carle uses to create his illustrations.

Availability: The book is readily available in hardcover.   It is also available in Spanish.


Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


36 thoughts on “The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse — Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. This book reminds me of an open-ended question: Ask it and watch the mind work since the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

    Give a kiddo the open-ended creative moment, that moment to say that yes, a blue horse is wonderful coming from your imagination, then watch the mind work to bend the box, stretch the corners and let the imagination loose.

    1. Oh my. I always love the way you put things, Angela! “bend the box, stretch the corners, and let the imagination loose.” Yes!

  2. I love Eric Carle. I love horses – blue or any other color 🙂 I love the creativity this book embraces and encourages! Thank you for adding this wonderful book to our list! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Susanna! (It occurs to me that there is a color called a blue roan, isn’t there? Not quite the same, but still…)

    1. Cool that you recognize the horse! The activities are probably a little old for your guy right now, but he’ll soon be there!

  3. Beth…what a lovely choice for PPBF! I just did a Boys and Girls Club staff workshop on using picture books to build self-esteem and literacy…and one of the things I spoke about was the exposure that picture books give young children to the world of art. 🙂
    Love the resources and activities!

    1. Thanks, Darlene. And yes, I think too that all kids have an innate creativity that needs to be fostered and encouraged and fed.

  4. This book kind of has the same meaning of “you can paint your trees purple” saying my mom always says. I would like to see a brown goldfish and a gray (body) and white (snout and ears) pug! 😉 I wonder what is in this book? I will have to check it out 🙂

    1. Your Mom is so right! And I know how you can see the brown goldfish and gray (body) and white (snout and ears) pug … get out those markers, Erik!

  5. Love the cover, but then I love horses. Great choice for PPBF. I would love browsing through this myself to look at the artwork. Young kids have so much innocent artistic flair wating to be unleashed.

    1. The artwork in this book is great fun! Unusual colors for animals throughout, and his method of doing his art is very interesting.

  6. I love the message of this book. Too many well-meaning parents and teachers use formula art projects, leaving no room for creativity and exploration. It was my oldest son’s biggest complaint about art classes when he went to school. Thanks, Beth!

    1. You’re so right about formula art projects. The “Flowers are red, and green leaves are green” approach. It’s so stifling.

      Thanks, Heather!

  7. This is a good choice for PPBF, Beth. KIds need to know their imaginations are OK. They need to know that what ever they draw or paint is good. It leads to good self esteem and other thinking in life. I like anything by Eric Carle.

    Thanks for this selection and introducing this to the list. 🙂

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