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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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 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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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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Age Level: 9-12 years old

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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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