Children’s Book Features Art from 50 Art Teachers

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Released in August 2015, “If Picasso Went to the Zoo” was published by Firehouse Publications, a children’s book featuring art from fifty different art teachers from around the world. Within the book are illustrations, sculptures, and paintings about various animals in the styles of artists that each teacher admires. For each piece of art, the animal’s name was matched alliteratively with the artist: an image of a pangolin was created in the style of Picasso, and an image of a dodo bird created in the style of Salvador Dali.

One of these artists was Bakersfield High School art teacher Yvonne Cavanagh. She elected to create a piece of ceramic art in the style of Robert Arneson. He is known for his bronze Egghead structures on the University of California, Davis campus. Cavanagh chose to sculpt an aye-aye, a primate that resides in the jungles of Madagascar and is distinct for its large ears and small eyes. Cavanagh scuplted the aye-aye with its tongue sticking out, as well as a large, red ear, both features found in Robert Arenson’s artwork.

Cavanagh was approached about creating art for this children’s book through a Facebook group for art teachers with more than 7,000 members in it. She decided it would be a great opportunity to move out of her comfort zone and show such a process to her students. Through the process, she worked with photography teacher Lisa Rudnick to take the final picture that would appear in the book.

“I was able to start out the school year sharing the finished book with my second-year students after they saw me creating the sculpture last year,” Cavanagh said.