Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

haring book cover

Keith Haring: the Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
by Kay A. Haring
Illustrated by Robert Neubecker

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Related Activities & Resources:

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Kay A. Haring biography:

Illustrator Information:

Robert Neubecker biography:

Robert Neubecker video interview (Reading Rockets) (1:49):

Activities & Resources:

HaringKids Lesson Plans for parents, teachers, institutions:


Be Creative!

“Art is for everyone!” is written in bold letters on the back of the book jacket. Hold a class debate on this statement, using the “Four Corners Debate” strategy, found at:

At the conclusion of the activity, read the book aloud to give the students a chance to hear Keith Haring’s opinion.

Divide the class into groups of 4 students and give each group a topic based on a recent unit of study (e.g. the Solar System, the Texas Revolution, geometric shapes). Groups can either receive the same broad topic or some section of the overall theme. Students discuss their topic and then design a mural based on their assigned content. Before the students begin to draw, encourage the groups to plan how the mural will demonstrate knowledge of their topic, who will create specific parts of the mural, ground rules for working as a group, and whether they need to collaborate with another group on content or design. Provide art materials and sufficient time for this group project. Have each group share its mural and then display in the classroom, library, or hall.

The phrase, “He just kept drawing,” is repeated throughout the book. Students define the word “persist,” and then write a poem or a song about the concept of continuing a task, even when the work is difficult. Students can decide how to showcase their poems and songs.

Keith Haring thought that art should be everywhere, not just in museums and galleries. Challenge the students over a period of two days to look for examples of art in their school, neighborhoods, and homes. To prepare for this activity, students should brainstorm the different types of art the students might find — drawings, murals, posters, video, sculpture. When the students have identified examples of art around them, ask them to write a news report, describing the art and its importance to the setting and to those who view it. The report can include information about the creator and original purpose (if known), or it can be based on the student’s interpretation. Encourage students to bring a photo of the art, if possible, to illustrate their news report. Students can also compile their reports and photos/sketches in an arts newsletter to be posted on the class/library website.

Using a document camera, project the book, so that students are able to clearly view the illustrations. Ask students to identify images in Keith Haring’s illustrations that appear to be symbols. Ask the students to share what they think the images represent to the artist. Then ask students to individually create a symbol that has meaning for them, using traditional art materials or computer tools. Students then write a brief paragraph that describes their symbols and their significance. Showcase the symbols in a classroom/library gallery.

In drawing, Keith Haring found a way to express his thoughts, energy, and creativity in a way that made a difference in the world. Not everyone is a gifted artist, however. Ask the students to think of talents they have that have made a difference in their own community. In pairs, have the students interview each other about their personal quality and how they have impacted others through this gift.

Research the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) of Berks County Community Foundation ( and read about the grant proposal theme and process ( Based on the grant proposal guidelines, write a description of the project that you would request funding for in your community. Substitute the name of your community for “Berks County” as you read the proposal guidelines and supplemental questions.

Explore and Learn:

If accessible through your library, check the TexQuest digital resources for articles on the topics below. These resources include Britannica Online School Edition, National Geographic Kids (Gale), Kids InfoBits (Gale), ¡Informe! (Gale), and ProQuest SIRS Discoverer. See the librarian for login information for TexQuest resources.

Use the sites below to gather information for student/class projects or just to find out more about these topics in the book.

Keith Haring’s Art :

Map of art around the world:

Poster Gallery:

Public Art Project for Kids:

“CityKids Speak on Liberty”:

Pop Art:

Tate Kids presents Pop Art (video) (4:34):

Student Community Involvement:

Murals brighten up a Philadelphia neighborhood:

Murals teach art, history:

Moving the lives of kids community mural project:

Cool Art Sites for Kids:

Art Express:

Easy Drawing Guides and Tutorials:

Bomomo Interactive Art Creator:

Tate Kids:

MakerSpace Activities:

Using the illustrations of Keith Haring’s subway drawings as inspiration, students can create their own sketches, using black paper and white chalk.

Direct students to the “Tools” section of the website, Comics in the Classroom: 100 Tips, Tools and Resources for Teachers,” found at

Students can read about possible comic creation tools and explore those that are available to them in the MakerSpace, designing their own comic strips to share with classmates.

Keith Haring’s art is all about movement. Students can produce their own moving art by creating flip books, based on the the Scholastic activity, Image into Motion: Creating Flip Books

Students identify a space in the school that needs some visual enhancement. Using MakeSpace resources, students plan an art project for this space, including the reason for the project, the design and how it addresses the need, sources for materials, and what the collaborative process will look like. Students can extend this activity by talking with school administrators or faculty about implementing the project.

Discussion Questions:

Big Idea Questions:

Keith Haring: the Boy Who Just Kept Drawing is a biography of a famous modern artist. What scene in Keith’s life most intensely grabbed your attention? What questions did this scene raise in your mind? How do you think Keith would have responded to your questions?

Keith’s younger sister Kay wrote this book about her famous brother. What does her desire to create this book tell you about her relationship with her brother?  About Kay? What do you think is the main message that Kay wants to share with the reader about her brother? Support your opinion with examples from the book.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a phrase that is often used when people are talking about art. What do you think the phrase means? How does this phrase relate to Keith Haring’s life as an artist? How does this phrase relate to the people who see his art today?

Keith spent most of his teenage and adult life in a city, including residing in New York City and visiting major cities around the world. How does his art reflect city life? How might his art be different if he had spent most of his life in a rural setting?

Throughout the book, people constantly question Keith about his art, repeatedly asking “WHY?” Keith rarely answered with words. Why do you think Keith chose to remain silent when confronted with questions? What form of communication did he use to respond to verbal challenges?

Robert Neubecker used Keith Haring’s actual art as the basis for many of his illustrations. Look for a list of Keith’s art in the back matter at the end of the book. Which of Keith’s actual works appeal to you the most? Why do you like these specific works?

When Keith drew in public places without permission, he was often breaking the law. Sometimes he was even arrested or fined. Why was Keith willing to break the rules to create his art?

At the end of the book, Keith states that “EVERYONE needs art.” Based on information presented in the book, what reasons would Keith give to support this belief? Do you agree or disagree with his statement?

Book Specific Questions:

If you were picking up this book for the first time, what conclusions might you draw about Keith Haring: the Boy Who Just Kept Drawing from looking at the front and back of the book jacket?

Look at the book’s end pages. What one adjective would you choose to describe this illustration? Write three sentences to explain why you selected that describing word.

How did Keith’s family influence him as a young boy? Share how your family encourages you to try new experiences or learn a new skill.

Why was the teacher upset with Keith’s doodle on the test he turned in? What visual clues indicate that Keith wasn’t doodling to bother or irritate the teacher? Why do you think that Keith was silent when the teacher called him up to discuss his paper?

How did Keith’s friends react to Keith’s symbols? How did Keith respond to his friends? Do you think that Keith is a good friend? Share reasons to support whether or not you would choose young Keith to be your friend.

In the book, Keith is often drawn listening to music while he creates. How might music help Keith draw? Does music help or distract you while you are working?

Were you surprised when Keith announces that he won’t take money for his paintings in the art gallery? What would you say to Keith, if he were your brother?

The author states that people who took the subway each day began to look for Keith’s drawings on black paper. What kind of impact do you think Keith’s art made on these subway riders?  How could art make a difference to people waiting in the subway?

Keith says to people asking questions about his drawings, “You decide what they mean.” Why wouldn’t Keith explain his art to the people? If you were asking Keith about his drawings, what would your reaction be, if Keith told you to make your decision about the meaning of his art?

How does the neighborhood react when Keith draws colorful faces on a wall in a space that has been neglected? Keith continues to draw in the neighborhood, even when he has to pay a fine. What adjective would you choose to describe this decision to continue drawing in public spaces? Share why you selected that particular describing word.

What message does Keith send when he creates art specifically for children in France and in New York?  How is the illustration of the children painting the Statue of Liberty drawing with Keith similar to the picture of Keith’s family at the beginning of the book?

On the page that begins, “Keith stopped drawing, just for a moment,” Keith finally answers the question, “”Why?” Does any part of his explanation puzzle you? What question would YOU like to ask Keith?

After reading the Author’s Note at the end of the book, what do you think is the main message that Kay Haring wants to share with the reader about her brother?

The section, About Keith Haring, provides much additional information about Keith Haring’s life and work. Although Keith died at an early age, how does his art continue to engage people today?

Book Talk Teasers:

Project the image of a colorful Radiant Child. Invite students to share their reaction to this image. Following this discussion, show the page, “There was a boy named Keith,” to the class and ask them how they think these two images might be connected. Have the book available to check out or to read in the library.

View the book trailer for Keith Haring: the Boy Who Just Kept Drawing. Ask the students to share their impression of Keith Haring as an artist and as a person. Encourage the students to read the book to see if their opinion changes by the end of the story.

Read Alikes:

Artist Biographies

Anderson, Kirsten. Who was Andy Warhol? Profiles the life and accomplishments of the printmaker who overcame poverty and illness to become the founder of the Pop Art movement. (NoveList Plus)

Close, Chuck. Chuck Close: face book. Presents an autobiography about the author’s artistic life, describing the creative processes he uses in the studio and his struggles with his disabilities. Includes a self-portrait mix-and-match section with divided pages to flip, that demonstrates his techniques and images. (NoveList Plus)

Ehlert, Lois. Scraps book: notes from a colorful life. Presents a visual survey of Lois Ehlert’s artistic career that reflects on her parents’ support, her early creative experiments, and her behind-the-scenes book-making processes. (NoveList Plus)

Morales,Yuyi. Viva Frida. Bilingual text, accompanied by colorful photographs, explores the famous artist’s life, and illuminates the laughter, love, and tragedy that influenced her work. (NoveList Plus)

O’Connor, Jane. Henri Matisse: drawing with scissors. Presents the life and work of Henri Matisse in the form of a child’s school report. (NoveList Plus)

Steptoe, Javaka. Radiant child: the story of young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Presents the life of the artist, who was inspired as a child by a book of anatomy given to him by his mother after being injured in a car crash and who went on to become a celebrity in the art world before his early death at twenty-eight. (NoveList Plus)


Colon, Raul. Draw! In this wordless picture book, a boy who is confined to his room fills his sketch pad with lions and elephants, then imagines himself on a safari. (NoveList Plus)

Lipsey, Jennifer. I love to draw!: my very favorite art book. Easy-to-follow steps and helpful illustrations, enhanced with completed projects, provide young aspiring artists to take their drawing to the next level by incorporating shading, three-dimensional effects, and more! (NoveList Plus)

Reynolds, Peter H. The dot. Vashti believes that she cannot draw, but her art teacher’s encouragement leads her to change her mind. (NoveList Plus)

Sturn, James. Adventures in cartooning: how to turn your doodles into comics. Once upon a time…a princess tried to make a comic. And with the help of a magical cartooning elf, she learned how–well enough to draw her way out of an encounter with a dangerous dragon, near-death by drowning, and into her very own adventure! (NoveList Plus)

Temple, Kathryn. Drawing: the only drawing book you’ll ever need to be the artist you’ve always wanted to be. This book’s subtitle really means business! With lots of encouragement, visual examples, and step-by-step illustrations, Drawing shows how to master the basics of line drawing, light and shadow, proportion and scale, and perspective. It also includes chapters on “opening your artist’s eyes” — yep, they’re different from ordinary eyes–and on using the basics you learn to draw faces, bodies, and more. (NoveList Plus)

Pop Art

Demilly, Christin. Pop art. Shows how Pop art works to transform ordinary or found objects into works of art, and how the movement grew out of post-war Europe into the powerful American statement of the 1960s. (NoveList Plus)

Isadora, Rachel. ABC pop! Each letter of the alphabet is represented by illustrations in a Pop art style. (NoveList Plus)

Raimondo, Joyce. Make it pop! Activities and adventures in Pop art. An introduction to Pop art includes guidance for related activities as well as brief biographies of six artists: Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and George Segal. (NoveList Plus)


Haring, Kay A. Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
40 pp. Dial 2017. ISBN 978-0-525-42819-0

(1) K-3 Illustrated by Robert Neubecker. This picture book biography chronicles pop artist Haring’s childhood, early adulthood, and brief but momentous career. Written by Haring’s sister, it’s guided by his unapologetic rejection of artistic pretension and illustrated in–what else?–a friendly and accessible cartoony style that fluidly integrates Haring’s own work. Neubecker’s illustrations solidly build settings, many of which are quintessential 1980s NYC art scenes.  Reprinted fromThe Horn Book Guide Excerpt in Magazine  by permission of Horn Book, Inc

Haring, K.A.. Illustrated by Robert Neubecker.  Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing. Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2017. School Library Journal (January 1, 2017)
K-Gr 3-This artist monograph benefits from the intimate familiarity of the creators with the subject: it is written by Keith Haring’s sister and illustrated by one of his colleagues from the 1980s New York City art scene. The author emphasizes Haring’s early appreciation of art and his later generosity with it. The illustrations incorporate sketches made by a young Haring, and the text explores how he would go on to give many of his paintings away or create them in public places. The title offers an enlightening look at the merits of street art and how it allows those who may not ordinarily venture into a museum or gallery to experience and enjoy art. The visuals, created with a Mac computer and pencil, are inspired by the illustrator’s personal photos and memories of the time period. Haring’s later works, from his adult years, are included; an addendum features reproductions as well as family photos. Children will relate to young Haring’s drive to pursue his calling despite naysayers. VERDICT This book will help fill contemporary art history gaps within library collections for children.-Suzanne LaPierre, Fairfax County Public Library, VA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.  Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal , 2017.

Haring, K.A.. Illustrated by Robert Neubecker.  Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing. Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2017. Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5)

Grades K-3. Artist Keith Haring gained worldwide fame in the 1980s for his joyful drawings, most notably of bold, chalk-outlined people. In this picture-book biography, Keith’s sister offers up a loving sketch of a boy so passionate about art that he drew on any surface he could find, from canvas to buildings. This habit only increased as an adult, and soon Keith’s work was hanging in galleries and being commissioned abroad. What stands out, though, is Keith’s selflessness and his commitment to share art with everyone, evidenced by his love of creating murals and drawing on the walls of subway tunnels. Neubecker’s colorful illustrations capture the energy with which Keith lived his life, and cleverly integrate some of the artist’s original works, which are collected at the book’s end. An author’s note offers more detailed information on Keith’s life, touching on his death, at age 31, from AIDS, and his creation of the Keith Haring Foundation, which helps underserved youth and those with HIV/AIDS. Always upbeat, this story is a celebration of art and life. Used with the permission of Booklist