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Music Books for Children

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Children are surrounded by music. They hear it on television, in shopping malls, from the car radio, on their iPods and in video games. Children hear music every day, but they aren't always listening to it. The joy of sharing music, of listening to it carefully and discovering new worlds through sound can be a wonderful experience, for children and adults alike. Music can serve as a window on history, a gateway to the imagination, a mirror of human emotions. Musicology is more than music history. And sharing the joy of listening is often a musicologist's greatest accomplishment. So we've put together a list of some of our favorite titles -- books that open up the world of musicology to a new generation.

This list is not exhaustive and it has been compiled according to the following criteria: all books on this list 1) have received strong reviews in the School Library Journal, 2) are currently in print, 3) are designed for readers grade 6 and younger, and 4) are non-fiction or historical fiction.

The Books are divided into three categories: 1) Books about Composers and/or Compositions, 2) Books about Performers, and 3) Books that Offer a General Introduction to Music and/or Musical Genres. Use the links in the top navigation bar to see the books and reviews.

I hope you enjoy this resource and find it helpful. If you would like suggest additional children's resources, please contact the AMS office.

--Anna Celenza (Georgetown University)
for the AMS Committee on Communications


Composers

Multiple Composers

celenza

Catherine Wolff Kendall, Stories of women composers for young musicians. Toadwood, 1993; ISBN-13: 978-0961087821

"Biographies of 31 women composers with their portraits, calendar of birthdays, and list of recordings."

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Johann Sebastian Bach

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Anna Celenza, Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2004; ISBN-13: 978-1570915109

"This fictional account surrounding the composition and naming of one of Bach's most famous musical works tells the story of Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, an orphan who is one of the composer's students..."



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winter

Jeanette Winter, Sebastian: A Book about Bach. Silver Whistle, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0152006297

"Winter combines a spare text and colorful illustrations to capture her subject's personality. In a folkloric tone, she presents the outlines of the composer's youth, family, marriage, and work..."



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Ludwig van Beethoven

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Anna Celenza, The Heroic Symphony. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2005; ISBN-13: 978-1570915093

"As in their previous collaborations, Celenza brings a famous musician to life while Kitchel provides energetic art. This time, they present the story of Beethoven's despair over his deafness and his eventual triumph as he gives himself over to the symphony that highlights his struggle to survive as a musician..."



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nichol

Barbara Nichol, Beethoven Lives Upstairs. Orchard Paperback, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0531071182

"When young Christopher's family takes Ludwig van Beethoven as an upstairs tenant, their home life becomes noisy and chaotic. Tortured by blinding headaches and diminishing eyesight, frustrated by deafness, Beethoven rips off his constraining clothes in the throes of composition..."



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Antonín Dvořák

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Joseph Horowitz, Dvořák in America: In Search of the New World. Cricket Books, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-0812626810

"This is an engaging account of the years the Bohemian composer spent in the U.S. during the early 1890s, teaching at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City and composing his New World symphony and shorter works..."



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Duke Ellington

pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra. Jump at the Sun, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0786801787

"A royal introduction to the piano prince. Told in a swingy conversational tone and highlighting the musician's childhood, early ragtime days, and stellar rise to popularity, playing at the Cotton Club and, later, Carnegie Hall, this is a jazzy treat..."



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George Gershwin

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Anna Celenza, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-1570915567

"The creation of Gershwin's 1924 masterpiece is the subject of this picture book. The story, rendered in watercolor-and-ink caricatures, opens in the legendary pool hall ..."



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Woody Guthrie

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Woody Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land. Little, Brown Young Readers, 1998; ISBN-13: 978-0316392150

"This effort is what great picture books are all about. Guthrie's familiar song is teamed with Jakobsen's oil paintings that evoke the 1920s and `30s, yet are still relevant today as, unfortunately, soup kitchens, burned-out lots, and homeless families are still very much a part of the American scene..."



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George Frederick Handel

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M.T. Anderson, Handel, Who Knew What He Liked. Candlewick, 2001; ISBN-13: 978-0763610463

"In this picture-book biography, both illustration and text are characterized by a saucy style, impeccable pacing, and a richness of content, and the two harmonize splendidly in a manner befitting the subject..."



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Franz Joseph Haydn

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Anna Celenza, The Farewell Symphony. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000; ISBN-13: 978-1570914065

"Celenza's story is a delightful introduction to Joseph Haydn, his "Farewell Symphony," and 18th-century court life. The composer asks Prince Nicholas if the homesick musicians might invite their families to join them at the summer palace in Hungary, and the answer is an emphatic and angry no..."



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Charles Ives

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Mordecai Gerstein, What Charlie Heard. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002; ISBN-13: 978-0374382926

"A prominent 20th-century American composer is brought to life through this biography in picture-book form. Young Charlie always listened to the sounds around him and tried to re-create them as he started writing music, whether it was a cheering crowd or a brass band parading through the town on the Fourth of July..."



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Hans Krása

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Tony Kushner, Brundibar. Hyperion, 2003; ISBN-13:978-0786809042

"A picture book based on a 1938 Czech opera, originally performed by the children of Terezin. A brother and sister try to get milk for their sick mother..."



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Gian Carlo Menotti

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Gian Carlo Menotti, Amahl and the Night Visitors. Harper Collins, 1986; ISBN-13: 978-0688054267

"The honored composer tells the story of his most famous opera, inspired by his own miraculous recovery from lameness as a child. A poor, crippled boy Amahl and his mother are dazzled by the three kings..."



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Olivier Messiaen

Jennifer Bryant

Jennifer Bryant, Music for the End of Time. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; Tra edition, 2005; ISBN-13: 978-0802852298

A children's picturebook based on the true story of French composer Olivier Messiaen



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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Anne Gatti, The Magic Flute. Chronicle Books, 1998; ISBN-13: 978-0811810036

"A stunningly illustrated, well-written retelling of one of Mozart's most beloved works..."



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sis

Peter Sis, Play, Mozart, Play! Greenwillow, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-0061121814

"Recognizing his son's talent at a very young age, Mozart's stern father resolutely turned him into a child sensation! The facts of the musician's childhood are familiar to many, but what sets this biographical picture book apart is its skill in introducing a world master to children in a way that is emotionally resonant..."



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Modest Mussorgsky

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Anna Celenza, Pictures at an Exhibition. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-1570914928

"Celenza brings to life three Russian friends – composer Modest Mussorgsky, architect Victor Hartmann, and art critic Vladimir Stasov. When Hartmann dies, Mussorgsky is plunged into despair and cannot create music..."



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Sergei Prokofiev

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Janet Schulman, Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Knopf Books, 2004; ISBN-13: 978-0375824302

"This musical fantasy about a disobedient boy who leaves the safety of the garden for the unknown world of the meadow, cleverly conquering the danger he encounters, has been a childhood favorite since 1936..."



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Chevalier Saint-George

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Hugh Brewster, The Other Mozart: The Life of the Chevalier Saint-George. Abrams, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-0810957206

"This swashbuckling biography of a multitalented musician in Revolutionary France will leave readers wondering why they'd never heard of the man. Born into slavery in Haiti..."



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Camille Saint-Saens

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Barrie C. Turner, Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens. Henry Holt & Co., 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0805061802

"Glitzy and exciting packaging is what this book has going for it. Turner has written new commentary for Saint-Saens's music, accompanied by a full-length, music-only CD, cleverly designed to fit into a plastic holder..."



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Erik Satie

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M.T. Anderson, Strange Mr. Satie. Viking, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-0670036370

"A splendid alliance of topic, text, and illustration produces a hauntingly compelling biography. Erik Satie was not suited to his times; he battled a "terrible temper" and wrote music that was so unusual that it eluded popularity..."



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Clara Wieck Schumann

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Susanna Reich, Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso. Clarion Books, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0395891193

"A thorough, well-researched, and creatively illustrated biography of a child prodigy. Clara Wieck was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1819. Her troubled yet accomplished childhood is related in detail..."



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Peter Tchaikovsky

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Esther Kalman, Tchaikovsky Discovers America. Orchard, 1995; ISBN-13:978-0531068946

"A charming tale told in diary form by a wealthy young girl of Russian descent. She is named Eugenia after Tchaikovsky's opera, Eugene Onegin, which her parents adore..."



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Antonio Lucio Vivaldi

Janice Shefelman

Janice Shefelman, I, Vivaldi. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008; ISBN: 978-0802853189

"In this dynamic picture-book biography, told as if by Vivaldi himself, the famous musician's energetic personality and steadfast dedication to music come alive."



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Performers

Marion Anderson

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Pam Munoz Ryan, When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson. Scholastic, 2002; ISBN-13: 978-0439269674

"Instead of the silver tones of the earlier title, this one employs acrylics in gold, copper, and a range of browns. As the book opens, the theater curtains part to reveal a girl singing in a window, framed in light..."



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Louis Armstrong

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Eric A. Kimmel, A Horn for Louis. Random House, 2005; ISBN-13: 978-0375840050

"Adapted from an unpublished memoir, this beginning chapter book is an account of Armstrong's youthful acquisition of his first true horn..."



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orgill
Roxanne Orgill, If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong. Houghton Mifflin, 1997; ISBN-13: 978-0618250769

"Young Louis's love of song and dance is well known in the streets of New Orleans, but his exuberance gets the best of him one wild New Year's Eve..."



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Duke Ellington

pinkney
Andrea Davis Pinkney, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra. Jump at the Sun, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0786801787

"A royal introduction to the piano prince. Told in a swingy conversational tone and highlighting the musician's childhood, early ragtime days, and stellar rise to popularity, playing at the Cotton Club and, later, Carnegie Hall, this is a jazzy treat..."



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Ella Fitzgerald

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Andrea Pinkney, Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa. Jump at the Sun, 2002; ISBN-13: 978-0786805686

"Scat Cat Monroe, a feline who earned his name by knowing the 'Queen of Scat,' tells her story from 'small-town girl to the First Lady of Song'..."



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Buddy Holly

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Anne Bustard, Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly. Simon & Schuster, 2005; ISBN-13: 978-0689866678

"Bustard describes Holly's early life, his family's fascination with music, and his path to becoming a recording star..."



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John Lennon

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Doreen Rappaport, John's Secret Dreams: The John Lennon Story. Hyperion, 2004; ISBN-13: 978-0786808175

"Using a combination of simple prose, song lyrics, and illustration, this heartfelt picture-book biography traces Lennon's life from his childhood to his death. Striking in both its simplicity and complexity..."



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Elvis Presley

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Amy Littlesugar, Shake Rag: From the Life of Elvis Presley. Philomel, 1998; ISBN-13: 978-0399230059

"A poignant glimpse of Elvis Presley's lonely childhood and of the impact made upon him by the people, both black and white, from the poor side of town..."



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Clara Wieck Schumann

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Susanna Reich, Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso. Clarion Books, 1999; ISBN-13: 978-0395891193

"A thorough, well-researched, and creatively illustrated biography of a child prodigy. Clara Wieck was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1819. Her troubled yet accomplished childhood is related in detail..."



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General


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Claude Clement, The Voice of the Wood. Puffin, 1993; ISBN-13: 978-0140545944

"In this enchanting Venetian folktale, an old musical instrument-maker finally captures the harmony of nature . . .



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Leo Dillon
Leo and Diane Dillon, Jazz on a Saturday Night. Blue Sky Press, 2007; ISBN-13: 978-0590478939

"Ladies and gents, what a jam this will be— an evening of jazz immortality!" And how! John Coltrane and Charlie Parker on sax, Thelonious Monk on piano, vocals by Ella Fitzgerald, trumpet by Miles Davis, drums by Max Roach, Stanley Clarke on bass! The audience is captivated and carried along..."



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george-warren
Holly George-Warren, Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country and Western Music. Houghton Mifflin, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-0618191000

"Concise but thorough, this picture book discusses the evolution of a distinctive American music style through a chronicle of its biggest stars..."



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hyde
Heidi Smith Hyde, Mendel’s Accordian. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2007; ISBN-13: 978-1580132121

"This gentle, picture-book history of klezmer music may have difficulty finding an audience. Mendel plays the accordion and forms a traveling band, but when life gets difficult in the old country, he leaves for America..."



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Kuskin
Karla Kuskin, The Philharmonic Gets Dressed (Reading Rainbow Book). HarperTrophy, 1986; ISBN-13: 978-0064431248

"It is almost Friday night. Outside, the dark is getting darker," and here and there around the city ninety-two men and thirteen women are getting dressed to go to work...."



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krull
Kathleen Krull, Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought). Harcourt, 1993; ISBN-13: 978-0152480103

"Bravo! A collective biography that is informative and fun to read. Krull has compiled an enjoyable assortment of sketches on 16 famous musical giants that will have readers rushing to the stereo..."



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lach
William Lach, Can You Hear It?. Abrams Books, 2006; ISBN-13: 978-0810957213

"This visual and aural feast invites parents, educators, and young listeners to "listen and look" at 13 examples of pictorial music and visual masterpieces..."



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levine
Robert Levine, Story of the Orchestra: Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! Har/Com Edition, 2000; ISBN-13: 978-1579121488

"Orchestra Bob guides readers through a delightful musical journey. The book is divided into two major parts: composers from Vivaldi to Bernstein and their associated musical periods, and the instruments of the orchestra..."



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moss
Lloyd Moss, Music is. Putnam, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-0399233364

"After singing the praises of an orchestra in Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (S & S, 1995) and a band in Our Marching Band (Putnam, 2001), Moss now extols the joys of music itself. In rhyming text, he explains that music is important because it appears in all aspects of our lives..."



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moss2
Lloyd Moss, Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin. Simon and Schuster, 1995; ISBN-13: 978-0671882396

"Layout, design, illustrations, and descriptive verses blend in perfect harmony to give voice to the unique sounds of 10 orchestral instruments..."



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myers
Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers, Blues Journey. Holiday House, 2003; ISBN-13: 978-0823416134

"'Blues, what you mean to me?/ Are you my pain and misery,/or my sweet, sweet company?' The opening verse of this latest father/son collaboration probes the very essence of a form-and a feeling; it asks the question that anyone who has sought solace in music can relate to..."



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Laura Amy Schlitz
Laura Amy Schlitz, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. Candlewick Press, 2007; ISBN-13: 978-0763615789

"Schlitz (The Hero Schliemann ) wrote these 22 brief monologues to be performed by students at the school where she is a librarian; here, bolstered by lively asides and unobtrusive notes, and illuminated by Byrd's (Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer) stunningly atmospheric watercolors, they bring to life a prototypical English village . . ."



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siberell
Anne Siberell, Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew. Oxford University Press, 2001; ISBN-13: 978-0195139662

"Filled with detailed explanations and entertaining trivia, this clearly written, lively book introduces readers to the world of opera from curtain opening to curtain call..."



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