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Summer Books and Activities for Kids

Music and Musicians

Music and Musicians

How to explore this theme:

  1. Choose books and book-related activities
  2. Explore more hands-on activities
  3. Try some summer writing
  4. Dig deeper with these websites
  5. Play and learn with interactive mobile apps

#1: Choose kids' books and book-related activities Great Fiction & Nonfiction Books

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A Tisket, a Tasket

A Tisket, a Tasket

By: Ella Fitzgerald | Illustrated by: Ora Eitan

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The song made famous by jazz great Ella Fitzgerald in the 1930s has been re-created, re-energized and newly presented in a picture book version. Sprightly cut paper collage illustrations show two children losing and ultimately finding both a lost basket and a friendship.

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

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

By: Carole Boston Weatherford | Illustrated by: Sean Qualls

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

John's music began when he listened to the music in his childhood. Semi-abstract illustrations vivify sound-filled poetry, together introducing a boy who would grow up to become the great John Coltrane.

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Charlie Parker Played Be Bop

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop

By: Chris Raschka

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Inspired by jazz great Charlie Parker, rhythm and repetition are woven together to create a musical effect. Animated watercolors and lively text combine in a story that begs to be read aloud.

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Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

By: Renee Watson | Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Bold, bright illustrations and a cheerful text that includes song lyrics introduce the life of an early 20th century African American performer. Though part of the Harlem Renaissance, Mills is a relative unknown who both on and off stage worked to help other African Americans and those who were less fortunate than she. An author's note concludes this charming life sketch.

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Hip Cat

Hip Cat

By: Jonathan London

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A cool cat named Oobie-Do moves to San Francisco, plays his saxophone and works as a short order cook, until his jazzy talents are recognized by nightclub owner Minnie, who books him for a gig. The bold, stylized illustrations are a cool complement to the rhythmic language of this off beat(nik!) tale.

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Hip Hop Dog

Hip Hop Dog

By: Chris Raschka | Illustrated by: Vladimir Radunsky

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A mutt tells reveals a "doggy allegory" and how he went from "the saddest and the baddest" to being a hip hop dog. Jazzy language swirls around and with fresh, loose art to create a sense of music in many forms. While rappers may just call it 'freestyle,' this zippy book is howling good fun.

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Music, Music for Everyone

Music, Music for Everyone

By: Vera Williams

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When Rosa's grandmother becomes sick, Rosa comes up with an idea that not only makes Grandma feel better, it helps add coins to the family's near empty money jar. Translucent watercolors illustrate this timeless, affectionate tale of family, community and the power of music.

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Tito Puente, Mambo King

Tito Puente, Mambo King

By: Monica Brown | Illustrated by: Rafael López

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Tito Puente was born to be a musician. He grew up to become the Mamba King to whose music people danced the mambo, rumba and cha-cha. Rhythmic language and animated illustrations briefly present Tito's life and the impact of music throughout.

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Uptown

Uptown

By: Bryan Collier

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Join a boy as he takes you uptown to introduce his Harlem home, filled with excitement, sounds, and verve. Illustrations use watercolor and collage to present a vibrant, music-filled place sure to please.

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When Marian Sang:  The True Recital of Marian Anderson

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson

By: Pam Muñoz Ryan | Illustrated by: Brian Selznick

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Marian Anderson was an extraordinary contralto whose talent was celebrated in Europe long before she was recognized in her native United States. Anderson's focus, musical talent, and the difficult times in which she lived are captured in a dramatic picture book biography.

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Age Level: 6-9 years old

A Band of Angels

A Band of Angels

By: Deborah Hopkinson | Illustrated by: Raul Colón

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ella Sheppard was one of the original Jubilee Singers from what is now known as Fisk University. This is a touching story, told by Ella's great-great-granddaughter, accompanied by gentle, poignant illustrations.

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Dizzy

Dizzy

By: Jonah Winter | Illustrated by: Sean Qualls

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

John Birks Gillespie was an angry child from an abusive home. He was able to overcome huge obstacles when given a trumpet to channel his anger and begin the journey to jazz. 'Dizzy' Gillespie's story is told in swirling images and rhythmic language, telling the story of how music inspired him and how he used his talents to inspire others.

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Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite

Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite

By: Anna Harwell Celenza | Illustrated by: Don Tate

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Duke Ellington's collaboration with a classically trained colleague resulting in unique rendition of the 'Nutcracker Suite' comes to life in jazzy text and illustrations; a CD is included.

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Ella Fitzgerald:  The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

By: Andrea Pinkney | Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

From her early days in Harlem to becoming the First Lady of Jazz, the story of Ella Fitzgerald is presented by a cool feline named Scat Cat Monroe. As Scat Cat steals through the pages of this book, Ella Fitzgerald's life and work are revealed in jazz-inspired language accompanied by dramatic scratchboard illustrations. The result is a lively and loving picture book biography.

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M is for Music

M is for Music

By: Kathleen Krull | Illustrated by: Stacey Innerst

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The alphabet is used as a device to introduce the vocabulary for a range of musical styles as well as the names of famous musicians. Jaunty illustrations combine with energetic language for an intriguing glimpse into music and musicians.

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My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia

My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia

By: Monica Brown | Illustrated by: Rafael López

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The beautiful artwork of this award-winning picture book about salsa queen Celia Cruz practically jumps off the page, and conveys the spirit and rhythmic energy of her music. Learn about Cruz's childhood in Havana and her entry into the world of salsa music from vibrant illustrations and text presented in English and Spanish.

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Odetta: The Queen of Folk

Odetta: The Queen of Folk

By: Stephen Alcorn

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The life and music of Odetta who became an influential folksinger and civil rights activist is revealed in lyrical, rhythmic language and evocative, swirling illustration. An affectionate afterword by the author provides factual information about the person and her influence.

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Simple Gifts

Simple Gifts

By: Chris Raschka

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A familiar traditional Shaker hymn has been interpreted in bold, semi-abstract, jewel-toned illustrations reminiscent of artist Paul Klee. A cat, squirrel, bird and turtle characters create the feel of the music.

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Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

By: Eileen L. Ordover | Illustrated by: Sean Qualls

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

From a poor girl who had "a dancing beat in her feet ever since she was a bitty girl" to when she finally got a chance to perform with a professional band, Ella Fitzgerald set the world of music on its ear. Her early life is presented in energetic, downright jazzy text and richly hued illustrations.

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Sweet Music in Harlem

Sweet Music in Harlem

By: Debbie Taylor

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

CJ's uncle, a well known jazz musician, has lost his signature hat and sends the boy out to locate it. CJ searches Harlem finding something better than the beret for the magazine photographer to snap. Animated illustrations and an author's note take a memorable look at Harlem and musicians of the mid 1950s.

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The Carnival of the Animals

The Carnival of the Animals

By: Jack Prelutsky | Illustrated by: Mary GrandPre

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

New poems, many rhyming, describe the animals introduced in Saint-Saens' orchestral music that was first performed in the 19th century. Semi-abstract illustrations accompany the verse. The book includes a music CD to bring the carnival of animals to life for a new generation.

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Age Level: 9-12 years old

Great American Mousical

Great American Mousical

By: Emma Walton Hamilton | Illustrated by: Tony Walton

Age Level: 9-12 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Theater mice perform in a space just out of human sight in a venerable old New York theater. Alas! The leading rodent taken to Brooklyn before she performs in the final play before the theater is destroyed. Humor abounds in this satisfying tale.

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Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies

Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies

By: Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton | Illustrated by: Jim McMullan

Age Level: 9-12 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A range of poetic styles, some rooted in the authors' family, are shared in this handsome, easily accessible collection. Attractive illustrations are sprinkled throughout, building the joy when the poems are shared, even when listening to the beautifully read CD.

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More great summer resources for parents from Reading Rockets

Read Aloud Tips

Read Aloud Tips

Read aloud every day with your child and talk about what you're reading. These two simple activities help build your child's vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Get tips (In English and 10 other languages) >

Downloadables

Downloadables

Download these colorful ready-to-print lunch box notes, play date cards, and door hangers for the kids in your life.

Download and print >