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Pre-K

Growing Reader

Note-Worthy Children’s Books About Music and Musical Instruments

by Naima Jasmine Russell

music-books-for-kids
Background credit: Thomas Bethge/Shutterstock

In our home, music takes center stage. My girls recently discovered the wonder of learning songs on our upright piano. I love to sing songs and strum (badly) on my ukulele, and my husband is a professional music composer and saxophonist. But you don’t need a house full of instruments or a master’s degree in child psychology to understand the power music has on children. Music helps with brain development, memorization skills, social-emotional regulation, and bonding with friends and family. Music has the power to uplift, inspire, and even make us smarter. Here are 11 books for music lovers to treasure and explore.

  • How to Be a Rock Star

    by Lisa Tolin, illustrated by Daniel Duncan

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    Every rockstar has to start somewhere. In this joyous, laugh-out-loud funny manual for budding rockstars, a little girl shows readers how to create the ultimate band from humble beginnings. Even with subpar band name suggestions from her parents (Cuddle Monsters or the Not-So-Loud Band), only brooms and pots for instruments, and a little brother with a very stinky wardrobe malfunction (soiled diaper), our hero pulls through. Pair this with making homemade instruments.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • 88 Instruments

    by Chris Barton, illustrated by Louis Thomas

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    Can you name 88 different instruments? Decision fatigue strikes in a music store when a boy can’t choose a musical instrument for his artistic expression. With rhythmic text, onomatopoeia, and an introduction to uncommon instruments (sousaphone, harpsichord), this book is perfect for a music-themed storytime. Pair it with a trip to a music store.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Drum City

    by Thea Guidone, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

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    This fun picture book begs to be read at a “music” or “city sounds” themed storytime. A little boy bangs on found instruments in his kitchen and inspires other kids to grab their pots and pans and join a city parade. Soon the entire city is creating music with everything they can find. A multi-ethnic cast with Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s signature illustrations makes this an adorable read-aloud. Pair this with exploring “found” drums and creating your own drum parade.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Wild Symphony

    by Dan Brown, illustrated by Susan Batori

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    This is no ordinary picture book. Join the traveling Maestro Mouse, meet his animal friends, and uncover a surprise at the end of the book. Readers can download the interactive app and listen to original musical compositions for each animal. Another bonus: author Dan Brown donates all US proceeds from this book to support music education for children worldwide. Pair this with the free interactive smartphone app, which will play the right song for each page when a phone's camera is held over it. How cool is that?
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Violet's Music

    by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

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    Violet made music with her rattle as a baby in the maternity ward and thinks, hums, and creates music as a kindergartener. Violet loves music but wants to find friends who share her passion. This sweet book is about staying true to yourself and waiting for the right friend to appear. Pair this with an invitation to friends to come over with their favorite instrument for a jam session.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Listen

    by Shannon Stocker, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth

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    Ten-year-old Evelyn Glennie is on her way to becoming a musical wonder when the nerves in her ears deteriorate until she loses her hearing. Everyone tells her she will never become a professional musician. However, with the help of a teacher, Evelyn feels the music’s vibrations in her body and explores different ways of “hearing.” Not only does Evelyn become a full-time solo percussionist, but she also changes how the world hears music, how British schools accept students, and receives Damehood from the queen. Pair this with YouTube videos of Evelyn Glennie’s percussion performances.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • My Family Plays Music (15th Anniversary Edition)

    by Judy Cox, illustrated by Elbrite Brown

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    A little girl in a talented family tries various music genres when she performs with her family members. Whether she plays a triangle, cymbal, or woodblock, she loves making music. This joyous story celebrates family and music alongside Elbrite Brown’s award-winning cut-paper illustrations. Pair this with a family jam session.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • The Very Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

    by Tim Lihoreau and Philip Noyce, illustrated by Olga Baumert

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    This is a beautiful book for classical music lovers. Readers follow Ava and Jayden as they explore orchestra instruments and gorgeous, music-inspired scenery. The text introduces kids to the stories behind various classical pieces, and pressing the sound button rewards young readers with sound clips paired with each instrument. Worried about a sound bite book driving you crazy? This one has an off switch.
    (Ages 5 - 7)

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  • For the Love of Music

    by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson

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    Who is Maria Anna Mozart? A musical prodigy by age 12, she played before kings and queens and became a household name like her brother, Wolfgang. The two siblings and best friends traveled the world, living the life of favored celebrities and showcasing their musical talents. When they got older, people encouraged Wolfgang Mozart to continue his career while urging Maria to marry and give up her stardom. This beautifully illustrated nonfiction book is about a little-known classical genius who continued to play music daily just for the love of it. Pair this with YouTube videos of Nannerl’s Music Book (Maria’s nickname). Her father wrote these songs for her to play.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

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  • Symphony for a Broken Orchestra: How Philadelphia Collected Sounds to Save Music

    by Amy Ignatow, illustrated by Gwen Millward

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    Just because something is broken doesn't mean that it can’t also be beautiful.
    This inspiring picture book is based on the true story of Robert Blackson, a local artist who played broken school instruments and created a symphony. His concert raised funds that repaired over 1,500 broken instruments for the Philadelphia school system. Back matter includes more information about the nonprofit Broken Orchestra. Pair this with the recording of the symphony performance (found through a link in the book).
    (Ages 6 - 9)

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  • Music and How it Works

    by DK

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    From the first known melody to modern music like K-pop and Hip-Hop, this book dives into the psychology, science, and math behind music. The illustrations pop off the page, breaking up the content and adding a visual aid to challenging concepts. This nonfiction wonder could be a music history course in itself. It’s a must-have for any music teacher’s or music lover’s library. Pair this with choosing a favorite song from the playlists linked in the book.
    (Ages 7 - 9)

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