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Start with a Book

Ricky Rocket

A summer reading and hands-on learning initiative from Reading Rockets

Start With a Book

Children's books and activities

Music and Musicians

Many kids love to sing, write songs, play music, and even create their own homemade instruments. And some children are curious about the lives of famous singers, songwriters, and musicians. We've gathered up a great collection of books, activities, apps, and websites for learning all about music and musicians.

Try pairing fiction with nonfiction books and exploring different genres (like poetry and biographies) and formats (like audio books). You'll be creating your own "text sets" — collections of texts focused on a specific topic. Reading widely in this way helps children build background knowledge, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

Music and Musicians

Great Fiction & Nonfiction Books

Age Level: 3-6 years old

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A Tisket, a Tasket

By: Ella Fitzgerald

Age Level: 3-6 years old

The song made famous by jazz great Ella Fitzgerald in the 1930s has been re-created, re-...

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Bats in the Band

By: Brian Lies

Age Level: 3-6 years old

When the bats awaken from winter hibernation, not only do their stomachs grumble, they are...

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Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane

By: Carole Boston Weatherford

Age Level: 3-6 years old

John's music began when he listened to the music in his childhood. Semi-abstract...

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Ben's Trumpet

By: Rachel Isadora

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Ben wants to be a trumpeter, but he plays only an imaginary instrument until one of the...

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Bird & Diz

By: Gary Gallo

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Presents a rhythmic tribute to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and their creation of bebop....

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Charlie Parker Played Be Bop

By: Chris Raschka

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Inspired by jazz great Charlie Parker, rhythm and repetition are woven together to create a...

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Dooby Dooby Moo

By: Doreen Cronin

Age Level: 3-6 years old

When Duck reads about an upcoming talent show at the county fair, he organizes the animals on...

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Drum City

By: Thea Guidone

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A young boy begins banging on pots and pans in his front yard, enticing other children to join...

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Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist

By: Susan Wood

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Meet Juan García Esquivel whose contributions to music can still be heard. From his early days...

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Every Little Thing

By: Bob Marley, Cedella Marley

Age Level: 3-6 years old

In this illustrated version of Bob Marley's song, a young boy, with the encouragement of three...

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Forever Young

By: Bob Dylan

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Since it first appeared on the 1974 album Planet Waves, "Forever Young" has been one of Bob...

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Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar

By: Keith Richards

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Long before there was a band, there was a boy: a young Keith Richards, who was introduced to the...

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Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

By: Renee Watson

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Bold, bright illustrations and a cheerful text that includes song lyrics introduce the life of an...

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Hip Cat

By: Jonathan London

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A cool cat named Oobie-Do moves to San Francisco, plays his saxophone and works as a short order...

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Hip Hop Dog

By: Chris Raschka

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A mutt tells reveals a "doggy allegory" and how he went from "the saddest and the...

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I Got the Rhythm

By: Connie Scholfield-Morrison

Age Level: 3-6 years old

On a sunny day, a child and her mother go for a walk in the park. The rhythm the girl hears in...

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Jazz Baby

By: Lisa Wheeler

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Baby and his family make some jazzy music.

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Kenya's Song

By: Linda Trice

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Kenya is looking for a favorite song to share with her class. She and her father attend a...

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Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals

By: Ashley Bryan

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Three well known spirituals, "This Little Light of Mine," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and...

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Let's Play!

By: Gabriel Alborozo

Age Level: 3-6 years old

From the tinkling tones of the tiny piccolo to the majesty of the grand piano or the deep...

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Little Pig Joins the Band

By: David Hyde Costello

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Little Pig has trouble keeping up with his older--and bigger--brothers and sisters. When they...

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Manuelo, the Playing Mantis

By: Don Freeman

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A praying mantis who longs to make music gets help from a spider name Debby Webster.

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Mole Music

By: David McPhail

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Feeling that something is missing in his simple life, Mole acquires a violin and learns to make...

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Music, Music for Everyone

By: Vera Williams

Age Level: 3-6 years old

When Rosa's grandmother becomes sick, Rosa comes up with an idea that not only makes...

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Musical Instruments Series

By: Xist Publishing

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Describes instruments, their parts, the different types, and how they are played.

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Olivia Forms a Band

By: Ian Falconer

Age Level: 3-6 years old

When Olivia learns that there will be no band at the evening's fireworks display, she decides to...

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One Love

By: Cedella Marley

Age Level: 3-6 years old

In this illustrated version of Bob Marley's song, a young girl enlists her friends, family, and...

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Peter and the Wolf

By: Chris Raschka, Sergei Prokofiev

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Retells the orchestral fairy tale in which a boy ignores his grandfather's warnings and captures...

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Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum

By: Robert Andrew Parker

Age Level: 3-6 years old

The story of young Art Tatum, who became one of the all-time greats of jazz.

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Punk Farm

By: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Age Level: 3-6 years old

At the end of the day, while Farmer Joe gets ready for bed, his animals tune their instruments...

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Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf

By: Sergei Prokofiev

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Despite Grandfather's warning about wolves in the forest, Peter and his animal friends capture...

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Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down!

By: Mark Alan Stamaty

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Recounts the author's childhood determination to emulate Elvis Presley after being inspired by...

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The Orchestra Pit

By: Johanna Wright

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Even though the green-spotted snake wanders into the wrong pit – an orchestra pit – he takes the...

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This Land is Your Land

By: Woodie Guthrie

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Guthrie's folk song begins a journey across the United States. Highly detailed, richly colored...

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Tito Puente, Mambo King

By: Monica Brown

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Tito Puente was born to be a musician. He grew up to become the Mamba King to whose music people...

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Uptown

By: Bryan Collier

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Join a boy as he takes you uptown to introduce his Harlem home, filled with excitement, sounds,...

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When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson

By: Pam Muñoz Ryan

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Marian Anderson was an extraordinary contralto whose talent was celebrated in Europe long before...

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Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People

By: Bonnie Christensen

Age Level: 3-6 years old

An introductory biography of famous folk singer Woody Guthrie presented as a picture book with a...

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Age Level: 6-9 years old

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A Band of Angels

By: Deborah Hopkinson

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Ella Sheppard was one of the original Jubilee Singers from what is now known as Fisk University...

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A Good Night for Ghosts

By: Mary Pope Osborne

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Jack and Annie go to New Orleans on All Saint's Day in 1915 to find a young musician named Louis...

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Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band

By: Kwame Alexander

Age Level: 6-9 years old

When a jazz-loving rooster sets his sights on winning a barnyard talent show, he realizes he can...

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Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

By: Susan Hood

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A town built on a landfill. A community in need of hope. A girl with a dream. A man with a...

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Banjo Granny

By: Sarah Martin Busse, Jacqueline Martin

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Owen’s singing, banjo-playing Granny goes out “to cross one river, one mountain, and a desert”...

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Boys Dancing: From School Gym to Theater Stage

By: George Ancona

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Elementary school-age boys start at the beginning of the school year to study with Pamela at the...

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Bremen Town Musician

By: Jacob Grimm

Age Level: 6-9 years old

This is the classic tale of four beleaguered animals—a donkey who can no longer work, a hound...

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Can You Hear It?

By: William Lach

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Introduces children to music through works of art. Pictures set the scene for the music, and...

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Celia Cruz: Queen of Salsa

By: Veronica Chambers

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Celia Cruz began singing on the streets of Havana as a child. She grew up to become a legendary...

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Dizzy

By: Jonah Winter

Age Level: 6-9 years old

John Birks Gillespie was an angry child from an abusive home. He was able to overcome huge...

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Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist

By: Bonnie Christensen

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Born into a poor Roma family, Django Reinhardt's musical talent takes him to perform on European...

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Drum Dream Girl: One Girl's Courage Changed Music

By: Margarita Engle

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Follows a girl in the 1920s as she strives to become a drummer, despite being continually...

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Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite

By: Anna Harwell Celenza

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Duke Ellington's collaboration with a classically trained colleague resulting in unique...

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Elizabeth's Song

By: Michael Wenberg

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A fictionalized account of how an 11-year-old girl, Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten, saved to buy her...

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Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

By: Andrea Pinkney

Age Level: 6-9 years old

From her early days in Harlem to becoming the First Lady of Jazz, the story of Ella Fitzgerald...

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Ellington Was Not a Street

By: Kadir Nelson, Ntozake Shange

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Handsome illustrations of Shange's evocative poem, "Mood Indigo," pay homage to the many African...

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Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King

By: Bonnie Christensen

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A picture-book biography of a poor kid from Tupelo, Mississippi, who became an American musical...

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Fab Four Friends

By: Susanna Reich

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Through paintings and text, traces the history and rise in popularity of the Beatles.

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Finding the Music/En pos de la musica

By: Jennifer Torres

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Reyna accidentally breaks her abuelo’s vihuela and tries to fix it before her family finds out....

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Flowers for Sarajevo

By: John McCutcheon

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Drasko is Milo’s son who carries on his father’s flower business even after things in Sarajevo...

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For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart

By: Elizabeth Rusch, Steve Johnson

Age Level: 6-9 years old

The life of Wolfgang’s older sister, Maria Anna, follows the form of a piano sonata which...

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Freedom in Congo Square

By: Carole Boston Weatherford

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Join the rhythmic countdown to Sunday afternoon, the one time when enslaved Africans in 19th...

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Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

By: Chieri Uegaki

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Inspired by memories of the time she spent in Japan with her grandfather, a professional...

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Harlem

By: Walter Dean Myers

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Experienced readers will enjoy this stunning and sophisticated visit to Harlem in word and image...

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Harlem Renaissance Party

By: Faith Ringgold

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Lonnie travels back in time to meet many of the artists, writers, and musicians of the Harlem...

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How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz

By: Jonah Winter

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Jelly Roll Morton became – to his grandmother’s horror – a musician in New Orleans, developing...

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I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello

By: Barbara Garriel

Age Level: 6-9 years old

An adaptation of the folk rhyme "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly," featuring musical...

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John Coltrane's Giant Steps

By: Chris Raschka

Age Level: 6-9 years old

John Coltrane's musical composition is performed by a box, a snowflake, some raindrops, and a...

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Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed

By: Leslea Newman

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Moshe Cotel was a composer who lived in a noisy building on a noisy street in a noisy city. But...

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Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century

By: Carole Boston Weatherford

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Born in the Mississippi Delta in 1927, the always musically gifted Mary Violet Leontyne Price...

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Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotton

By: Laura Veirs

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Elizabeth "Libba" Cotton heard music all around her growing up in North Carolina. She became a...

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Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music

By: Ana Gerhard

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Provides an introduction to classical music, describing how birds have inspired composers...

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Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

By: Katheryn Russell-Brown

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A biography of African American musician who played the trombone and composed and arranged music...

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Little Rat Makes Music

By: Monica Bang-Campbell

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Little Rat wants to be musical and play an instrument just as do the other members of her family...

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M Is for Music

By: Kathleen Krull

Age Level: 6-9 years old

The alphabet is used as a device to introduce the vocabulary for a range of musical styles as...

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Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens

By: Nina Nolan

Age Level: 6-9 years old

This brief, broad introduction to gospel great, Mahalia Jackson, is sure to inform as well as...

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Max Found Two Sticks

By: Brian Pinkney

Age Level: 6-9 years old

It was a day when Max didn't feel like talking to anyone. He just sat on his front steps and...

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Moses Goes to a Concert

By: Isaac Millman

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Moses and his schoolmates, all deaf, attend a concert where the orchestra's percussionist is...

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Mr. Putter and Tabby Toot the Horn

By: Cynthia Rylant

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Mr. Putter's neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, decides that they should join a band, but finding the...

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My Name Is Celia/Me llamo Celia

By: Monica Brown

Age Level: 6-9 years old

The beautiful artwork of this award-winning picture book about salsa queen Celia Cruz practically...

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Odetta: The Queen of Folk

By: Stephen Alcorn

Age Level: 6-9 years old

The life and music of Odetta who became an influential folksinger and civil rights activist is...

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Penny and Her Song

By: Kevin Henkes

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Henkes' first easy reader introduces Penny and her mouse family in two appealing chapters. Penny...

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Play, Mozart, Play!

By: Peter Sís

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not only a famous composer and a musical genius; his father turned...

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Simple Gifts

By: Chris Raschka

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A familiar traditional Shaker hymn has been interpreted in bold, semi-abstract, jewel-toned...

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Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

By: Eileen L. Ordover

Age Level: 6-9 years old

From a poor girl who had "a dancing beat in her feet ever since she was a bitty girl"...

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Sweet Music in Harlem

By: Debbie Taylor

Age Level: 6-9 years old

CJ's uncle, a well known jazz musician, has lost his signature hat and sends the boy out to...

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Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm

By: Karen Deans

Age Level: 6-9 years old

The story of a group of African American orphans who played in their school's all-girl swing...

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Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums

By: Audrey Vernick

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Encourages the reader, through practical advice, to support his or her buffalo's desire to play...

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The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny)

By: Kathleen Krull

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A group of young men from Liverpool changed the world of music and they enjoyed a good laugh —...

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The Cardboard Piano

By: Lynne Rae Perkins

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Debbie is taking piano lessons and makes a cardboard piano for her friend Tina. But when Tina...

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The Carnival of the Animals

By: Jack Prelutsky

Age Level: 6-9 years old

New poems, many rhyming, describe the animals introduced in Saint-Saens' orchestral music that...

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The Composer Is Dead

By: Lemony Snicket

Age Level: 6-9 years old

An inspector seeks to solve a murder mystery at the symphony by questioning each of the musical...

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The Deaf Musicians

By: Pete Seeger, Paul Dubois Jacobs

Age Level: 6-9 years old

An inspector seeks to solve a murder mystery at the symphony by questioning each of the musical...

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The First Flute

By: David Bouchard, Jan Reibach

Age Level: 6-9 years old

When a name is given to an adult, it is often given based on the life that person has lived. The...

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The Little Piano Girl

By: Ann Ingalls, Maryann Macdonald

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A child prodigy at the piano sprinkles her music with a little jazz. Includes an afterword about...

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The Piano

By: William Miller

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A young girl's love for music leads her to a job in the home of an older woman who teaches her...

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The Shoe Bird

By: Barbara M. Joosse

Age Level: 6-9 years old

An absurd but satisfying fantasy based on Eudora Welty's only children’s work, is presented in...

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Trombone Shorty

By: Trou "Trombone Shorty" Andrews

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Troy Andrews grew up in a New Orleans family of musicians so it’s not surprising that he, too,...

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Tuba Lessons

By: T.C. Bartlett

Age Level: 6-9 years old

While walking through the woods on his way to his tuba lesson, a boy becomes sidetracked by all...

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Ukulele Hayley

By: Judy Cox

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Hayley has finally found her talent: playing ukelele like her great-aunt Ruby, who traveled all...

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When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan

By: Gary Gallo

Age Level: 6-9 years old

this picture-book biography follows a young Bob Simmerman as he renames himself after his...

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When Grandmama Sings

By: Margaree King Mitchell

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Belle goes with her talented grandmother on a singing tour during a time of racial segregation...

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When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

By: Lauren Stringer

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Stravinsky, a composer, and a dancer named Nijnsky each worked alone until they met. Their...

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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

By: Laban Carrick Hill

Age Level: 6-9 years old

From his early childhood in Jamaica, Clive loved all types of music. When he was 13 years old,...

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Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin

By: Lloyd Moss

Age Level: 6-9 years old

When this book begins, the trombone is playing all by itself. But soon a trumpet makes a duet, a...

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Age Level: 9-12 years old

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Audition & Subtraction

By: Amy Fellner Dominy

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Tatum, a 14-year-old clarinetist, competes with new student Michael for a spot in honor band,...

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Blackbird Fly

By: Erin Entrada Kelly

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Bullied at school, eighth-grader Apple, a Filipino American who loves the music of the Beatles,...

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Blues Journey

By: Walter Dean Myers

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Rich paintings in limited colors convey the power of a people and a piece of their history. Done...

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Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

By: Rita Williams-Garcia

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Clayton Byrd adores his grandfather, loves the jazz Cool Papa plays with the other bluesmen in...

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Dreambender

By: Ronald Kidd

Age Level: 9-12 years old

In a world where dreambenders manipulate dreams in order to remove emotions both negative and...

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Echo

By: Pam Muñoz Ryan

Age Level: 9-12 years old

A harmonica and a bit of magic link different children from different times.

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Great American Mousical

By: Emma Walton Hamilton

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Theater mice perform in a space just out of human sight in a venerable old New York theater. Alas!...

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Guitar Notes

By: Mary Amato

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Two very different high school students discover a mutual appreciation for writing songs for the...

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High-Tech DIY Projects with Musical Instruments

By: Maggie Murphy

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Provides information about music, instruments, and sound while offering step-by-step...

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I Heart Band Series

By: Michelle Schusterman

Age Level: 9-12 years old

The books follow French horn player Holly Mead as she navigates middle school friendships and...

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Jazz

By: Walter Dean Myers

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Experience the explosion of color and movement of jazz as you pulsate with its beat in a vibrant...

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Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

By: Roxanne Orgill

Age Level: 9-12 years old

In 1958, photographer Art Kane gathered up a who’s who of jazz musicians on a New York City...

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Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

By: Patricia Hruby Powell

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Josephine Baker’s life and struggles of this performer and activist comes to life.

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Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies

By: Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton

Age Level: 9-12 years old

A range of poetic styles, some rooted in the authors' family, are shared in this handsome, easily...

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Learn to Speak Music

By: John Crossingham

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Learn to Speak Music helps young readers learn this universal language of music by revealing...

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Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World

By: Robbie Robertson

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Part memoir, part tribute, and all great storytelling. Music industry veterans Robbie Robertson...

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Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger

By: Anita Silvey

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Pete Seeger lived a long life sharing his music and his convictions about equality with...

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Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought)

By: Kathleen Krull

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Short, fresh and fun essays present a broad array of musicians and their music - from Bach to...

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Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Music

By: Rebecca Sjonger

Age Level: 9-12 years old

For kids into music, this title cant be beat! From inspiring profiles of key Maker musicians, to...

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Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

By: Andrea Davis Pinkney

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Listen to the “groove” as readers make their way through the history of Motown, the people who...

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Story of the Orchestra : Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music!

By: Robert Levine

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Describes the orchestra and includes information on composers, instruments, and the conductor....

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The Flute

By: Rachna Gilmore

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Her parents swept away by a catastrophic flood, Chandra finds solace in her mother's magic flute...

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The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue

By: Suzanne Slade

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Illustrations in blues and grays combine with words to flow across the pages of this handsome...

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The Rising Star of Rusty Nail

By: Lesley M. Blume

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Hansen is a 10-year-old piano prodigy living in Rusty Nail, Minnesota. She's long exhausted the...

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The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman

By: Ben H. Winters

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Spurred by a special project from social studies teacher, seventh grader Bethesda Fielding...

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The Voice That Challenged a Nation

By: Russell Freedman

Age Level: 9-12 years old

A Newbery Honor book that accounts the life and musical career of the great African American...

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What Is Rock and Roll?

By: Jim O'Connor

Age Level: 9-12 years old

This entry in the popular "Who Was" series covers the background of rock and roll music that...

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