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20 New and Noteworthy Children’s Books About Music

Looking for the best children’s books about music? These picture books on music for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various music topics such as music history, famous musicians, dance and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

Because by Mo Willems

A moving tale about the transformational power of music. Music moves from one person to another across hundreds of years. A great book about learning about cause and effect.

Looking for the best children's books about music? These picture books on music for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various music topics such as music history, famous musicians, dance and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Zin Zin Zin a Violin by Lloyd Moss

A Caldecott Honor book that is the perfect introduction to musical instruments and a counting book that redefines the genre.

When this book begins, the trombone is playing all by itself. But soon a trumpet makes a duet, a french horn a trio, and so on until the entire orchestra is assembled on stage. Written in elegant and rhythmic verse and illustrated with playful and flowing artwork, this unique counting book is the perfect introduction to musical groups. Readers of all ages are sure to shout “Encore!” when they reach the final page of this joyous celebration of classical music.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Zin Zin Zin a Violin HERE

Playing From the Heart by Peter H. Reynolds

When a young boy begins to play on his family’s piano, reveling in the fun of plunking the keys, his father signs him up for lessons so that he can learn to play properly. With his father’s encouragement, Raj learns notes, then scales, then songs, and finally classical pieces that his father can recognize and be proud of. But the more Raj practices and the more skilled he becomes, the less he enjoys playing, until he grows up and stops playing altogether. But when his father becomes ill and asks Raj to play for him, will Raj remember how to play from the heart?

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

Giraffes Can’t Dance is a touching tale of Gerald the giraffe, who wants nothing more than to dance. With crooked knees and thin legs, it’s harder for a giraffe than you would think. Gerald is finally able to dance to his own tune when he gets some encouraging words from an unlikely friend.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Giraffes Can’t Dance HERE

Oliver Button Is A Sissy by Tomie Depaola

Oliver Button is a sissy. At least that’s what the other boys call him. But here’s what Oliver Button really is: a reader, and an artist, and a singer, and a dancer, and more. What will his classmates say when he steps into the spotlight?

Get the lesson plan and activities for Oliver Button Is A Sissy HERE

Hello I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri

There’s never been anyone like music legend Johnny Cash. His deep voice is instantly recognizable, and his heartfelt songs resonate with listeners of all ages and backgrounds. G. Neri captures Johnny’s story in beautiful free verse, portraying an ordinary boy with an extraordinary talent who grew up in extreme poverty, faced incredible challenges, and ultimately found his calling by always being true to the gift of his voice. A. G. Ford’s luscious paintings of the dramatic southern landscape of Johnny Cash’s childhood illuminate this portrait of a legend, taking us from his humble beginnings to his enormous success on the world stage.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Hello I’m Johnny Cash HERE

My Name Is Celia Cruz by Monica Brown

Another one of my favorite September read alouds! This bilingual book allows young readers to enter Celia Cruz’s life as she becomes a well-known singer in her homeland of Cuba, then moves to New York City and Miami where she and others create a new type of music called salsa.

Get the lesson plan and activities for My Name Is Celia Cruz HERE

Esquivel Space-Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood

Juan Garcia Esquivel was born in Mexico and grew up to the sounds of mariachi bands. He loved music and became a musical explorer. Defying convention, he created music that made people laugh and planted images in their minds. Juan’s space-age lounge music–popular in the fifties and sixties–has found a new generation of listeners. And Duncan Tonatiuh’s fresh and quirky illustrations bring Esquivel’s spirit to life.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Esquivel HERE

Danza!: Amalia Hernández And Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet by Duncan Tonatiuh

As a child, Amalia Hernández saw a pair of dancers in the town square. The way they stomped and swayed to the rhythm of the beat inspired her. She knew one day she would become a dancer.

Amalia studied ballet and modern dance under the direction of skilled teachers who had performed in world-renowned dance companies. But she never forgot the folk dance she had seen years earlier. She began traveling through the Mexican countryside, witnessing the dances of many regions, and she used her knowledge of ballet and modern dance to adapt the traditional dances to the stage. She founded her own dance company, a group that became known as el Ballet Folklórico de México. A great book for Hispanic Heritage Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Danza!: Amalia Hernández And Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet HERE

Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle

As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.

Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most? This is also a great book for Hispanic Heritage Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Dancing Hands HERE

Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Ada’s Violin HERE

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

One day, a bear cub finds something strange and wonderful in the forest. When he touches the keys, they make a horrible noise. Yet he is drawn back again and again. Eventually, he learns to play beautiful sounds, delighting his woodland friends.

Then the bear is invited to share his sounds with new friends in the city. He longs to explore the world beyond his home, and to play bigger and better than before. But he knows that if he leaves, the other bears will be very sad . . .

This gorgeously illustrated tale of following one’s dreams reminds us of the value of friendship, wherever we go.

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow

This jazz-inspired reinvention of The Nutcracker is a worthy tribute to the dreamlike wonder and magic of the Christmas season. In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Nutcracker in Harlem HERE

Brave Ballerina by Michelle Meadows

Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. It tells her story from her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera. An excellent book for Black History Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Brave Ballerina HERE

The Man With the Violin by Kathy Stinson

Dylan is someone who notices things. His mom is someone who doesn’t. So try as he might, Dylan can’t get his mom to listen to the man playing the violin in the subway station. But Dylan is swept away by the beautiful music that fills the air as crowds of oblivious people hurry past.

This gorgeous picture book is based on the true story of Joshua Bell, a world-renowned classical violinist who famously took his instrument down into the Washington D.C. subway for a free concert. More than a thousand commuters rushed by him, but only seven stopped to listen, most of them children. A great book about mindfulness and living in the moment when so many are rushing about their business too caught up in their heads to stop and hear the music.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Man With the Violin HERE

Guitar Genius by Kim Tomsic

A beautifully-illustrated true story of rock and roll legend Les Paul: This is the story of how Les Paul created the world’s first solid-body electric guitar, countless other inventions that changed modern music, and one truly epic career in rock and roll. How to make a microphone? A broomstick, a cinderblock, a telephone, a radio. How to make an electric guitar? A record player’s arm, a speaker, some tape. How to make a legendary inventor? A few tools, a lot of curiosity, and an endless faith in what is possible, this unforgettable biography will resonate with inventive readers young and old.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Guitar Genius HERE

Follow The Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter

Winter’s story begins with a peg-leg sailor who aids slaves on their escape on the Underground Railroad. While working for plantation owners, Peg Leg Joe teaches the slaves a song about the drinking gourd (the Big Dipper). A couple, their son, and two others make their escape by following the song’s directions. Rich paintings interpret the strong story in a clean, primitive style enhanced by bold colors. The rhythmic compositions have an energetic presence that’s compelling

Get the lesson plan and activities for Follow the Drinking Gourd HERE

RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father’s Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves. Her string of hit songs earned her the title “the Queen of Soul,” multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn’t just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights. This book is told through musical verse with award-winning illustrations by Frank Morrison.

In addition to being one of my favorite books for Women’s History Month, I also really like it for women in sports and entertainment and to talk about different forms of activism.

Get the lesson plan and activities for RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul HERE

Selena: Queen of Tejano Music by Silvia Lopez

Selena Quintanilla’s music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family’s band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music, which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong.

Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn’t know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it. With songs written and composed by her older brother and the fun dance steps Selena created, her band, Selena Y Los Dinos, rose to stardom! A true trailblazer, her success in Tejano music and her crossover into mainstream American music opened the door for other Latinx entertainers, and she became an inspiration for Latina girls everywhere. In addition to being one of my favorite children’s books about women in sports and entertainment, this would also be an excellent book for Women’s History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Key From Spain by Debbie Levy

When Flory’s ancestors are forced to leave Spain during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, they take with them their two most precious possessions―the key to their old house and the Ladino language. When Flory flees Europe during World War II to begin a new life in the United States, she carries Ladino with her, along with her other precious possessions―her harmoniku and her music. But what of the key?

Best Children’s Books About Music

What are some of your favorite children’s books about music Are there any must read children’s books about music that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!

Looking for the best children's books about music? These picture books on music for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various music topics such as music history, famous musicians, dance and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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