This is a work in progress; some books are annotated, some aren't yet. My goal is for this to be a comprehensive resource, so this bibliography contains both in-print and out-of-print books. I'll keep adding resources as I find out about them and/or read them, so keep checking back, and please let me know what I'm missing!
Bach’s Big Adventure, by Sallie Ketcham, illustrated by Timothy Bush, Orchard Books, 1999
A young J. S. Bach walks 30 miles to Hamburg to hear Jan Adam Reincken play in order to find out if he really is the best organist in Germany. He is both humbled and encouraged by the experience.
Bach’s Goldberg Variations, by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by JoAnn E. Kitchel
A young orphan boy named Johann Gottlieb Goldberg is taken into the court of Count Keyserlingk, where he has the opportunity to take lessons with J.S. Bach. When the count comes down with an illness and cannot sleep, he has Goldberg play for him. Anna Harwell Celenza uses these historical circumstances to create a charming story that is a fantastic introduction to the Goldberg Variations. Includes a CD recording of the piece.
Beethoven Lives Upstairs, by Barbara Nichol, illustrated by Scott Cameron, Orchard Books, 1999
Christoff’s mother rents out a room to Ludwig van Beethoven, and learns to understand the eccentric boarder as he learns about his deafness, his passion and his musical genius. A fictional story that gives children a lot of valuable insights into Beethoven’s history, personality and music.
The Farewell Symphony, by Anna Harwell Celenza, illus. by JoAnn E. Kitchel
Franz Joseph Haydn writes a symphony for his patron Prince Nicholas of Esterházy that expresses the musicians’ discontent with their overlong stay at his summer palace, away from their homes and families. Includes information on the 18th-century symphony and additional historical notes on the Farewell Symphony, and comes with a companion CD recording of Haydn’s “Farewell” and “Hornsignal” symphonies (nos. 45 and 31).
For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart, by Elizabeth Rusch, paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, Tricycle Press, 2011
Maria Anna Mozart (Nannerl) was as much a child prodigy as her younger brother Wolfgang Amadeus. The two traveled and performed together all over
for several years. But when Wolfgang and his father left on a second trip,
Maria was left behind. From that point, the siblings’ lives took different
courses. Written in small segments following the form of a piano sonata, this
book details Maria’s life, showing how music permeated her life, even though her
opportunities as a woman were much different than her brother’s.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, by Anna Harwell Celenza, JoAnn E. Kitchel, Charlesbridge, 2006
George Gershwin has less than a month to compose a concerto for a special concert of American music. It takes him a while to overcome writer’s block, but he eventually finds inspiration in the sounds and music that surround him in New York City. Comes with a CD recording.
Handel, Who Knew What He Liked, by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, Candlewick Press, 2001
This biography of Handel portrays him as a stubborn boy who grows up to be a stubborn man, and shows how that character trait made him an incredibly successful composer. His story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations and told with a quirky sense of humor.
The Heroic Symphony, by Anna Harwell Celenza
Tells the true story behind the writing of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony. Beethoven combines his own struggle with going deaf with his hopes and admiration for Napoleon Bonaparte into an epic work—until Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France. Book comes with a CD recording of the Symphony No. 3.
I, Vivaldi, by Janice Shefelman, illustrated by Tom Shefelman, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008
The author fleshes out the bare facts of Vivaldi’s life into a story of a man who felt pulled between his mother’s vow that he would become a priest and what he felt was his calling to music.
Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times, Kathleen Krull
Mozart Finds a Melody, by Stephen Costanza, Henry Holt and Company, 2004
This story about Mozart being inspired by his surroundings is purely fictional, but it is based on an account of his pet starling learning to sing the first few bars of his Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major.
Mozart: the Wonder Child, A Puppet Play in Three Acts, by Diane Stanley, Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2009
Mozart’s life story is divided into 3 parts and portrayed by puppets inspired by the Salzburg Marionettes. Full of information about his childhood, his struggle to free himself from literal servanthood to the archbishop of Salzburg and his golden years in Vienna, there is additional material in the back of the book about Mozart’s names, the Salzburg Marionettes, and a timeline of Mozart’s life.
Music for the End of Time, by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Beth Peck, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2005
The story of how French composer Olivier Messiaen composed and performed his “Quartet for the End of Time” while he was a POW in a German prison camp during World War II.
Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, by Susan Goldman Rubin, Charlesbridge, 2011
The Other Mozart: The Life of the Famous Chevalier de Saint-George, by Hugh Brewster, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007
Born in the
Indies in 1745 to a slave mother and wealthy plantation-owner
father, Joseph de Bologne-Saint-George was raised and educated like a
gentleman. When Joseph was eight his father sold his plantation and moved to
Paris, bringing Joseph and his mother, now both no longer slaves, with him. He
also re-named his son, giving him the title Chevalier, which was equivalent to
a knight. Joseph was bright, talented, strong, and handsome, and he made a name
for himself in France as a brilliant fencer, an accomplished musician,
composer, and conductor, and later in life as the first black colonel in the
French army. He was famous and accomplished and admired, but he also had to
navigate a world in which his opportunities were quite limited by the color of
his skin. His fascinating story is told in the context of the world of his
time, with brief interludes telling about Paris, Haydn, Mozart, Marie
Antoinette, and the French Revolution scattered through the book.
Pictures at an Exhibition, by Anna Harwell Celenza
Play, Mozart, Play!, by Peter Sis, Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006
An introduction to Mozart’s childhood for very young children, this book also offers insight into the role of play in his music.
Say it With Music: A Story about Irving Berlin, (Creative Minds Biographies), by Thomas Streissguth, illustrated by Jennifer Hagerman
Sebastian: A Book About Bach, by Jeanette Winter, Silver Whistle (a trademark of Harcourt, Inc.), 1999
A simple introduction to the life of J.S. Bach, with bright, appealing illustrations. Briefly touches on a number of events from Bach’s life: the death of his parents, his long walks from town to town to hear other organists play, his 20 children and Anna Magdalena’s notebook, his work as choirmaster and music director in Leipzig.
The Secret World of Hildegard¸ by Jonah Winter
More of a spiritual biography than anything else, this book tells the story of Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval nun who had colorful and persistent visions. Once she understood they were from God she found the courage to share her visions in a book. She became a powerful influence in the Church, as a preacher, composer and scientist.
Silent Night: The Song and Its Story, by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Tim Ladwig, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1997
On Christmas Eve in 1818 in a small Austrian town, the organ breaks and Father Joseph Mohr and the church organist, Franz Gruber, are suddenly faced with the possibility of no music for Christmas mass. This book tells about the origins and spread of a favorite Christmas carol.
Strange Mr. Satie, by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Petra Mathers
Tells the life story, simply and poetically, of Erik Satie, a French composer who defied musical and cultural conventions. Covers the importance of meeting other poets and artists at the Parisian café Le Chat Noir, as well as his decision to go back to school to study music at the age of 39—to learn the rules so he could break them.
The 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Barry Blitt
What Charlie Heard, by Mordecai Gerstein, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002
This biography of Charles Ives focuses on the world of sound all around him, and how he tried to capture it in his music. An interesting introduction that provides children and their parents with useful tools for approaching some rather difficult music.
Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?, by Yona Zeddis McDonough
Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and lots more stories about the Lives of Great Composers, by Stephen Isserlis, illustrated by Adam Stower
Why Handel Waggled His Wig and lots more stories about the Lives of Great Composers, by Stephen Isserlis
Young Mozart, Rachel Isadora
Composer Series for Older Children
Creative Minds Biographies:
Bold Composer: A Story about Ludwig van Beethoven, (Creative Minds Biographies), by Judith Pinkerton, illustrated by Barbara Kiwak
Her Piano Sang: A Story about Clara Schumann, (Creative Minds Biographies), by Barbara Allman, illustrated by Shelly O. Haas
The life of Clara Wieck Schumann, from her childhood as a prodigy to her adult life as mother, wife, performer, composer, and advocate of new music.
Musical Genius: A Story about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Creative Minds Biographies), by Barbara Allman, illustrated by Janet Hamlin
Raggin’: A Story about Scott Joplin, (Creative Minds Biographies), by Barbara Mitchell, illustrated by Hetty Mitchell
Say it With Music: A Story about Irving Berlin, (Creative Minds Biographies), by Thomas Streissguth, illustrated by Jennifer Hagerman
Famous Children Series, by Ann Rachlin, illustrated by Susan Hellard:
Getting to Know the World’s Great Composers, by Mike Venezia:
The Great Musicians Series, from Zeezok Publishing:
Sebastian Bach, the Boy from Thuringia, by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher
Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells, by Opal Wheeler and Mary Greenwalt
Handel at the Court of Kings, by Opal Wheeler and Mary Greenwalt
Joseph Haydn, the Merry Little Peasant¸ by Mary Greenwalt, Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher
Mozart, the Wonder Boy, by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher
Robert Schumann and Mascott Ziff, by Opal Wheeler and Christine Price
Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland, Early Years¸ by Opal Wheeler and Christine Price
Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland, Later Years¸ by Opal Wheeler and Christine Price
Edward MacDowell and His Cabin in the Pines, by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher
Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends, by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher
Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray, by Opal Wheeler
The Young Brahms, by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher
*The Great Musicians Series also offers Companion CDs, which contain audio files, printable sheet music and coloring pages to go along with each chapter:
Bach and Mozart Companion CD
Beethoven and Haydn Companion CD
Handel and Schumann Companion CD
Chopin, Early and Later Years Companion CD
Schubert and Brahms Companion Cd
Animal Orchestra, by Ilo Orleans, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, Golden Books Publishing Company, 1958, renewed 1986
This is a simple rhyming book that features an eclectic orchestra of animals; it would be most appealing for very young children.
Carnival of the Animals: Poems inspired by Saint-Saens’ Music, ed. by Judith Chernaik, illustrations by Satoshi Kitamura, Candlewick Press, 2006
Carnival of the Animals: Classical Music for Kids, by Camille Saint-Saens and Barrie C. Turner, illustrated by Sue Williams
Carnival of the Animals, by John Lithgow, illustrated by Boris Kulikov, Simon Schuster, 2007
Carnival of the Animals, by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Carnival of the Animals, by Philip de Vos, illustrated by Piet Grobler, Front Street/Lemniscaat, 1998
The Composer is Dead, by Lemony Snicket, music composed by Nathaniel Stookey, illustrations by Carson Ellis, Harper Collins Publishers, 2009
This is a picture book with companion CD featuring Lemony Snicket and the San Francisco Symphony. The music and story are clever and imaginative, and introduce each instrument in the orchestra in much the same way as Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, giving listeners a chance to hear each instrument and learn something of its role in the orchestra.
Jake the Philharmonic Dog, by Karen LeFrak
Meet the Orchestra, by Ann Hayes, illustrated by Karmen Thompson, Gulliver Books, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1991
This book introduces each instrument in the orchestra, describing its sound, its role and its personality. Playful illustrations depict a different animal playing each instrument: a polar bear on bassoon, a raccoon on violin, a tiger on French horn.
Out and About at the Orchestra, by Barbara J. Turner, illustrated by Anne McMullen, Picture Window Books, 2003
This picture book is set up as a field trip to an orchestra concert, with a tour guide giving information about the orchestra, the instrument families and the conductor. Strictly informational, but in a simple style with pleasant pictures.
Peter and the Wolf, adapted and illustrated by Ian Beck, Transworld Publishers, 1995
Peter and the Wolf, by Sergei Prokofiev, translated by Maria Carlson, illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak, Picture Puffins 1986
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont, Harper & Row, 1982
The members of a symphony orchestra get dressed for a performance on a Friday night.
The Remarkable Farkle McBride, by John Lithgow, illustrated by C. F. Payne, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2000
A musically gifted boy grows disillusioned with each instrument he masters, until he finally finds fulfillment as a conductor.
Those Amazing Musical Instruments! With CD: Your Guide to the Orchestra Through Sounds and Stories, by Genevieve Helsby
Sergei Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf, by Sergei Prokoviev
The Story of the Incredible Orchestra, by Bruce Koscielniak, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000
This book traces the history and evolution of the orchestra, from Gabrieli’s Sacrae Symphoniae of 1597 to the invention of valve instruments to the interest in both computerized instruments and period performance practice today. Detailed illustrations offer further notes and pictures and descriptions of a number of historical instruments along with the standard modern instruments.
Story of the Orchestra: Listen While You Learn, by Robert Levine
The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra, (audio CD) Garrison Keillor with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
A young man tries to decide which instrument is best suited to his personality. This is more for parents than kids, but is a fun variation on “Introduction to the Orchestra” pieces.
Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Anita Ganeri
Berlioz the Bear, by Jan Brett, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1991
Berlioz has to get himself and the rest of the band to the village square to play for a gala ball, but the bandwagon is stuck. On top of that, his bass has a strange buzz. Little does he know that one of his problems is the solution to the other.
I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello, by Barbara S. Garriel
The Fiddler of the Northern Lights, by Natalie Kinsey Warnock, illustrated by Leslie W. Bowman
Nina’s Waltz, by Corinne Demas
Piano, Piano, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Eric Heliot, Charlesbridge, 2007
Marcolino hates practicing piano, but he does it for his mother. He dreams of doing other things. His mom wants him to play because she wasn’t able to fulfill her own dreams. When his grandfather figures out what is going on he reveals something neither mother nor son is aware of, and negotiates a solution that makes everybody happy.
The Story of Middle C, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Scott Menchin, Candlewick Press, 2009
A girl prepares for her first piano recital by practicing hard, listening to her teacher and even wearing her lucky underwear. When the performance doesn’t quite go the way she expected she discovers there is more to artistry than she thought.
Those Amazing Instruments, by Genevieve Helsby
Tubby the Tuba, by Paul Tripp, illustrated by Henry Cole, Dutton Children's Books, 2006
Tubby is sad because he never gets to play the melody--until, that is, he meets a bullfrog who inspires him. This is a remake of a story for narrator and orchestra that was written in 1946. Definite vintage feel.
The Violin Man, by Maureen Brett Hooper, illustrated by Gary Undercuffler, Boyds Mills Press, 1991
A Very Young Musician, by Jill Krementz, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1991
Ten year-old Josh Broder lives in Portland, Maine and studies trumpet. Written as a first-person narrative, this book describes what his life as a young person studying music (seriously) is like. He brings readers to music lessons and school, talks about practicing, caring for his instrument and his interest in composition. He also goes to Interlochen for the summer, and gets to hear and meet (and get advice from) Wynton Marsalis on his eleventh birthday.
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1995
A rhythmic, rhyming introduction to ten instruments, it describes the sound and personality of each in just a few words. Also a good introduction to the concept of solo, duo, trio, etc. This is a Caldecott Honor Book.
Aïda, told by Leontyne Price, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Opera diva Leontyne Price retells the story from Verdi’s opera of the Ethiopian princess Aïda, who is captured by her Egyptian enemies. Made handmaiden to the Pharaoh’s daughter, her secret love for the commander of the Egyptian army divides her loyalties and brings tragedy to everyone involved. Filled with sumptuous artwork by award-winning illustrators.
Amahl and the Night Visitors, adapted by Frances Frost, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, Whittlesley House, a division of McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1952
The Three Kings visit a disabled shepherd boy and his widowed mother while they are following the star in search of the Christ Child. Frost’s adaptation preserves Gian-Carlo Menotti’s dialogue from the made-for-television opera libretto.
The Barefoot Book of Opera Stories
Brundibar, retold by Tony Kushner after the opera by Hans Krása and Adolf Hoffmeister, pictures by Maurice Sendak, Hyperion Books for Children, 2003
Pepicek and Aninku must get milk for their sick mother, but have to compete against Brundibar and his hurdy gurdy to earn money. They learn that there is strength in numbers when they ask for help and Brundibar is defeated.
The Dog Who Sang at the Opera, by Jim West and Marshall Izen, illustrated by Erika Oller, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004
This story, based on a real occurrence with Renée Fleming in 1997, is about a Russian wolfhound named Pasha who gets a chance to be on stage at the Met in New York City and ends up competing with the diva in her most demanding aria. A charming book with surreptitious information about what it’s like to be part of an opera production. A copy of a newspaper article about the real event along with photographs and a letter from Renée Fleming are included in the back of the book.
The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert & Sullivan, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Richard Egilski, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009
Mr. Sullivan wanted to write serious music, but his friend Mr. Gilbert kept writing the same silly opera plot over and over again. It looked like their friendship and opera-writing partnership were finished until Mr. Gilbert came up with something entirely new (“The Mikado”).
The Great Poochini, by Gary Clement
The Magic Flute, retold by Anne Gatti, illustrated by Peter Malone, Chronicle Books, 1997
Book with CD. The story of Mozart's opera is retold in fairy tale form, with each two-page spread depicting a different scene. Each scene is then accompanied by a musical excerpt from the CD, making for an intermingling of music, art, and literature that is quite satisfying.
Opera Cat, by Tess Weaver, illustrated by Andrea Wesson, Clarion Books, 2002
Opera diva Madame SoSo has no idea what a special cat her pet, Alma, is until she develops laryngitis and is unable to perform one night.
The Random House Book of Opera Stories, retold by Adèle Geras
This book puts the synopsis of eight popular operas into story form. Each story is accompanied by whimsical illustrations by a different artist. Stories include: The Magic Flute, Aïda, Carmen, The Cunning Little Vixen, Turandot, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and The Love of Three Oranges. A brief biography of the composer precedes each story.
Sing Me a Story: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children, by Jane Rosenberg and Luciano Pavarotti
A Soup Opera, by Jim Gill, illustrated by David Moose
Stories from the Opera, by Husain Shahrukh and James Mayhew
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson, The Voice of a Century, by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2002
Interspersed with the lyrics of African American spirituals, this book tells the story of Marian Anderson in a heartfelt way—how this black woman with an unusual and beautiful voice struggled against racism and limited opportunities, first for an education in music, and then for a place to sing.
World’s Very Best Opera for Kids…in English!, by Allan Monk
Backstage, by Robert Maiorano, illustrated by Rachel Isadora, Greenwillow Books, 1978
Olivia goes to pick up her mother at a ballet rehearsal of "The Nutcracker," leading young readers all around backstage. Beautifully illustrated.
Ballet Bunnies, by Joan Elizabeth Goodman, Marshall Cavendish Children, 2008
This book mixes “cute” illustrations with quite a lot of basic information about ballet, but without a lot of words. It follows a group of bunnies through their ballet class as they warm up, work at the bar and do centerwork, covering the ballet positions, arm positions, and names of exercises and steps. Each French name and English description is accompanied by an illustration of a bunny carrying out that specific action.
Ballet of the Elephants, by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, Roaring Brook Press, 2006
The true account of how John Ringling North, George Balanchin,e and Igor Stravinsky teamed up to create Circus Polka, a ballet for elephants and ballerinas, as one of the acts in The Greatest Show on Earth in 1942.
Ballet School, by Naia Bray-Moffat and David Handley, DK Children, 2003
The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories, by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay, Barefoot Books, 2004
This book tells the stories from seven ballets, Coppélia: The Girl with the Enamel Eyes, Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Shim Chung: The Blind Man’s Daughter, The Sleeping Beauty, and Daphnis and Chloe, accompanied by beautiful watercolor and acryla-gouache paintings. It reads like a book of fairytales with ballet scenes for illustrations accompanied by introductions that give historical information about each ballet. Also includes a brief timeline of ballet.
Dance Me a Story: Twelve Tales from the Classic Ballets, by Jane Rosenberg, with an introduction by Merrill Ashley, Thames and
, 1985 Hudson
The stories of twelve famous ballets are told here in story form, while preserving the atmosphere of a ballet performance. The illustrations are presented as scenes on a stage, and the characters are dancers. Likewise, the movement and dancing one would see as an audience-member are incorporated into each story. Includes Cinderella, Coppélia, Don Quixote, La Fille Mal Gardée, Firebird, Giselle, The Nutcracker, Petrouchka, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty,
, La Sylphide. Swan Lake
Dance of the Swan: A Story about Anna Pavlova, (Creative Minds Biographies), by Barbara Allman, illustrated by Shelly O. Haas
The Firebird, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Vladimir Vagin
The story of Prince Ivan, and how the magical Firebird helps him defeat the evil sorcerer Kostchei. This version is told in fairytale form, but rooted in the author’s memory of the ballet choreographed by Balanchine with music by Stravinsky. The illustrations in the top 2/3 of each page are bright, colorful, Russian folk-style pictures, while the bottom 1/3 depicts the same scene as it might be viewed as a ballet.
Firebird, adapted and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1994
A retelling of the ballet, based on a Russian fairy tale. Prince Ivan tries to capture the Firebird, but then releases her. Out of gratitude she gives him a feather from her tail, telling him to use it to call on her in time of trouble. She later returns to help him rescue ten princesses from the evil magician, Katshei.
The Harlem Nutcracker, based on the ballet by Donald Byrd, text and photography by Susan Kurklin, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children, 2001
Based on a ballet by Donald Byrd, this is a retelling of the Nutcracker danced to music by Duke Ellington. In this version Clara is a grandmother struggling with the loss of her beloved husband and a family that appears to be growing apart. Her dead husband appears to her as the Nutcracker, and their battle is with Death instead of the Mouse King. Instead of journeying to the Kingdom of Sweets they visit a Harlem Renaissance-era Club Sweets, and the dancing is jazz, not ballet. Although this is a moving story in picture book format, I don’t recommend it for young children due to the portrayal of Death coming for Clara.
I Dreamed I was a Ballerina, by Anna Pavlova, with art by Edgar Degas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001
Taken from ballerina Anna Pavlova's autobiography, Pages of My Life, this is the account of her mother taking her to the theater for her birthday to see a ballet performance. Entranced by what she sees, she is inspired to become a ballerina, herself. Illustrated entirely with art by Edgar Degas.
Isadora Dances, by Rachel Isadora, Viking, 1998
Tells the story of the life of Isadora Duncan, who pioneered a new form of dance that was very different from traditional ballet.
Jake the Ballet Dog, by Karen LeFrak, illustrated by Marcin Barnaski
Lili at Ballet, by Rachel Isadora, G. P. Putnams's Sons, 1993
Follow Lili to her ballet class. This book describes what takes place at a class, describes a number of ballet steps, and details some of Lili's training as she works towards becoming a ballerina.
Lili Backstage, by Rachel Isadora, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1997
Lili stays at the theater after a ballet class to have dinner with her Grandpa, who is an orchestra musician. Before she meets up with him she explores the entire theater, looking at all the inner workings that go into a ballet production.
Lili on Stage, by Rachel Isadora, Putnam, 1998
Lili participates in her first performance of The Nutcracker Ballet. A simple narration that depicts what it is like to be part of a ballet performance.
Max, Rachel Isadora, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1976
This was Rachel Isadora’s first book, written and illustrated after she gave up dancing professionally due to an injury. It tells the story of a boy who accompanies his sister to ballet class before baseball practice and discovers he loves dance as much as baseball. The drawings are detailed, capturing the charm and informality of children at their dance class.
My Ballet Class, by Rachel Isadora, Greenwillow Books, 1980
A very simple picture book that describes a traditional ballet class, told from the point of view of one of the participants. The mostly black and white illustrations capture the scenes beautifully, and are obviously done with a dancer’s eye for detail.
My Ballet Diary, by Rachel Isadora
Not Just Tutus, Rachel Isadora
Nutcracker, by E. T. A. Hoffman, pictures by Maurice Sendak, translated by Ralph Manheim, Gramercy Books, 1984
This book started with the production Sendak designed for the Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1983. He wanted to do something that was more true to Hoffman’s tale than other productions, and ended up creating this book, as well. It uses Hoffman’s text and is darker and more complicated than the ballet version (which is usually based on a version of Hoffman’s story written by Alexandre Dumas).
The Nutcracker, retold by Rachel Isadora
The Nutcracker, by Susan Jeffers, Harper Collins Publishers, 2007
This retelling is from the ballet, rather than from E. T. A. Hoffman’s original tale. Many of the illustrations make you feel like you are on stage with the dancers, a perspective I sometimes found myself wishing for when I had to sit at the back of an auditorium.
The Nutcracker Ballet, by Vladimir Vagin, Scholastic Inc., 1995
This is another retelling from the ballet, although I recognized more elements from E. T. A. Hoffman’s story. The pictures alternate between stage settings and a more fairytale-like setting.
On Your Toes: A Ballet ABC, Rachel Isadora, Greenwillow Books, 2003
This simple alphabet book is accompanied by beautiful pastel illustrations that depict scenes from ballets, rehearsals and backstage. The glossary in the back goes into more depth, explaining each scene or ballet term, from arabesque, to a kiss in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to the zipper on a ballerina’s costume.
Opening Night, by Rachel Isadora, Greenwillow Books, 1984
A young ballerina named Heather is a bug in her first performance of "Midsummer Night's Dream." This book follows her through preparations backstage to the curtain cal at the end of the performance.
The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Angela Barrett, Random House, 1994
Very nicely written stories from 10 popular ballets: Swan Lake, Coppelia, Giselle, Cinderella, La Sylphide, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, The Firebird, Petrouchka, and The Sleeping Beauty. Reads like a book of fairy tales, (which most of them are, really.)
Swan Lake: A Ballet Story, adapted and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
The love story of Prince Siegfried and Odette, who, trapped under the spell of an evil sorcerer, is a swan by day and herself by night. The author/illustrator is a former ballerina, and her ethereal watercolor illustrations combine sweeping backdrops with ballet dancers in formal poses.
A Very Young Dancer, by Jill Krementz, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Writer and photographer Jill Krementz followed a young student at The School of American Ballet through auditions, rehearsals and performances of The Nutcracker Ballet. The book is narrated in the first person by the dancer, Stephanie, and documents many details about her life at the ballet school. It is simply told and accompanied by numerous photographs.
Curtain-Raiser Books (Opera and Ballet)
These vintage books retell the stories of a number of well-known operas and ballets.
The Flying Dutchman
The Gondoliers, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, told by Jean Blashfield, with drawings by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, Franklin Watts, Inc, 1965
H.M.S. Pinafore, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, told by Martha Mearns, with drawings by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, Franklin Watts, Inc. 1966
Iolanthe, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, told by Jean Blashfield, with drawings by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, Franklin Watts, Inc., 1966
The Magic Flute
The Mikado, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, retold by Martha Mearns, with drawings by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, Franklin Watts, Inc., 1965
The Pirates of Penzance, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, retold by Jean Blashfield, with drawings by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, Franklin Watts, Inc., 1965
Swan Lake: The Story of Prince Siegfried
The Yeoman of the Guard, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, told by Martha Mearns, with drawings by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, Franklin Watts, Inc., 1967
Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrations by Sean Qualls, Henry Holt and Co. 2008
Ben’s Trumpet, by Rachel Isadora
A Caldecott Honor Book. Ben listens to the musicians practicing at the Zig Zag Club and plays along on his imaginary trumpet. He plays for everybody he knows until one day someone steps in to help his dream become reality. Striking black and white illustrations capture the essence of jazz music.
Blues Journey, by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers
Bring on That Beat, Rachel Isadora
Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop, by Chris Raschka, Orchard Books, 1992
Lollipops, bus stop signs and a lonely cat dance across the pages accompanied by scat-like text in this book inspired by a hearing of Parker’s famous recording, “A Night in Tunisia”.
Dizzy, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Sean Quallis, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2006
Tells the life-story of Dizzy Gillespie: his violent childhood, his life-changing discovery of the trumpet, his music career, and how his “silly” behavior and style of playing changed the jazz world.
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra¸ by Andrea Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Hyperion Books for Children, 1998
The life and music of Duke Ellington, from his failed piano lessons as a child to his days at the Cotton Club to his Carnegie Hall debut of “Black, Brown and Beige”. The illustrations are full of color and movement. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor Book.
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuoso, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion books for Children, 2002
The life story of Ella Fitzgerald, the jazz diva who used her voice like an instrument.
Hip Cat, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Woodleigh Hubbard, Chronicle Books, 1993
Hip Cat is a saxophone-playing cat who wants only play jazz, but he also needs to pay the rent. He practices hard, gets a day job, and keeps at it until “even the top dogs paid top dollar for Oobie-do to wail at all the clubs.” Colorful, loose illustrations accompany a jazz-inspired text about an artist who learns to “do what you love to do, and do it well.”
If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong, by Roxanne Orgill
Jazz A-B-C, by Wynton Marsalis, illustrated by Paul Rogers
The Jazz Fly, by Matthew Gollub
John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, by Chris Raschka
Little Stevie Wonder, by Quincy Troupe, illustrated by Lisa Cohen, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005
The story of Stevie Wonder’s life, told in energetic, poetic language and vibrant illustrations. Accompanied by a CD with two of his songs, “Fingertips,” and “Uptight (Everything’s Alright.” This is as much a tribute to the man and his work as it is a biography.
Mysterious Thelonius, by Chris Raschka, Orchard Books, 1997
In this unusual picture book, fragmented words travel across polychromatic squares and rectangles to provide a verbal and visual introduction to Thelonius Monk and his style of jazz—music that had “not one wrong note.”
This Jazz Man, by Karen Ehrhardt, pictures by R. G. Roth, Harcourt Books, 2006
An improvisation on "This Old Man," a different jazz great "plays" each number, from 1-10, in his own particular style. At the end of the book each musician is listed with a brief biography. Includes Louis Armstrong, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Chano Pozo, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Waller, and Charles Mingus.
Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People, by Bonnie Christensen, Alfred A Knopf, 2001
Woody Guthrie had a hard, poor life from the start, but when he traveled from Oklahoma to California in search of a better life during the Depression and found only more hardship, and saw the plight of other migrant workers like him, he made it his mission to become their voice. He spent his life traveling across
, talking to migrant field
workers, miners, and factory workers, turning their stories and their struggles
into songs, as well as championing the rights of workers and the importance of
Songs and Hymns
All the Pretty Little Horses: A Traditional Lullaby, illustrated by Linda Saport, Clarion books, 1999
Dream-like pastel illustrations accompany the text of this lullaby. Includes a note on its origins, as well as the music.
The Bear Went Over the Mountain, Rosemary Wells
Caedmon’s Song, by Ruth Ashby
A Child’s Book of Christmas Carols, by Inez Bertail, illustrated by Masha, 2003, Neumann Press
Christmas Pop-Ups Boxed Set: A Christmas Carol, A Child is Born, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and The Nutcracker, Ottenheimer Publishers, 1993
Cumbayah, by Floyd Cooper, Morrow Junior Books, 1998
Oil wash paintings of people from around the world sing traditional verses of “Cumbayah” along with some original verses by the author/illustrator. A note at the beginning of the book explains the origins and development of this popular American folk song.
The Erie Canal, illustrated by Peter Spier, Doubleday, 1970
Intricately-detailed illustrations accompany the text of this folk song, followed by a historical note and a musical score.
The First Noel: Christmas Carols To Play and Sing, DK Publishing, 1998
The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, illustrated by Peter Spier, Doubleday & Company, 1961
Detailed illustrations bring this Burl Ives song to life, following a fox as he goes out to find food for his family. Followed by a piano score.
Go In and Out the Window: An Illustrated Songbook for Children, by Dan Fox, Henry Holt & Co., 1987
God Bless the Child, by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr., illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Amistad/Harper Collins Press (Amistad is an imprint of Harper Collins Press), 2004
This book comes with a CD of Billie Holiday singing her famous song, “God Bless the Child”. Her lyrics provide the text of this book, accompanied by watercolor illustrations that depict a boy moving with his family from a plantation in the South to Chicago during the Great Migration, working alongside his parents, adjusting to city life, and finally pursuing an education as a way out of poverty.
Good King Wenceslas, by John Mason Neale, illustrations and ornaments by Christopher Manson, North-South Books, 1994
The carol celebrating the Christian charity of Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia is illustrated with medieval-style woodcuts and hand-lettering. Brief biographies of Wenceslas and the author of the carol follow.
Happy Birthday to You!, by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet, Sleeping Bear Press, 2008
The story of an unusual family, their dedication to education, and how the Happy Birthday song was created for a kindergarten class.
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2005
Kadir Nelson offers his version of this traditional spiritual with vibrant pencil, oil and watercolor illustrations.
The Huron Carol, by Frances Tyrrell
I Know an Old Lady, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, Scholastic Inc., 1994
The English folk song about the old lady who swallows increasingly large animals and doesn’t survive the process. Illustrations are appropriately creepy.
I Love the Mountains: A Traditional Song, adapted by John Archambault & David R. Plummer, illustrated by Susan Swan, Silver Press (a division of Simon & Schuster), 1999
The illustrations that accompany this song take reader on a tour of the United States, depicting forests, farmland, the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls.
Leave Your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry, by Natalie Merchant, illustrated by Barbara McClintock, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2012
I adore books like this—fabulous words, beautiful illustrations, and a full-length CD—in my mind that pretty much covers everything you could want. This collection was inspired by the poems, stories, and songs Natalie Merchant shared with her daughter in the first six years of her life. This is a wealth of good literature, and good art, and good music.
Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals, Ashley Bryan, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007
Colorful paper-collage illustrations explode off the pages in accompaniment to the text of three well-loved Spirituals: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
London Bridge is Falling Down!, Peter Spier
Morning Has Broken, by Eleanor Farjeon
One Wide River To Cross, adapted by Barbara Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966
The text of a traditional song about Noah’s Ark accompanied by lively wood-block prints.
Psalms for Young Children, by Marie-Hélène Delval
Purple Mountain Majesties: The Story of Katharine Lee Bates and “America the Beautiful”, by Barbara Younger, illustrated by Stacey Schuett, Dutton Children’s Books, 1998
The life story of Katharine Lee Bates and how she created the patriotic hymn that is second only to “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Silent Night, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, Dutton Children’s Books, 1984, 2003
Beautiful illustrations tell the Christmas story along with the text of the famous Christmas carol.
The Song of Francis and the Animals, by Pat Mora
This is My Song: a Collection of Gospel Music for the Family, by Vy Higginsen, illustrated by Brenda Joysmith; Crown Publishers, Inc., 1995
This is a beautifully-illustrated songbook of 30 well-known gospel songs, arranged by Wesley Naylor. Each song is preceded by historical and sometimes personal notes, and quotes are scattered throughout the book. The Introduction and Gospel Photo Album at the beginning of the book give a wonderful background to gospel music.
To Market! To Market!, Peter Spier
A Treasury of Christmas Songs; Twenty Five Favories to Sing and Play, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004
Turn! Turn! Turn!, words from Ecclesiastes arranged and adapted with music by Pete Seeger, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003
This book comes with a CD recording performances by both Pete Seeger and The Byrds. Wendy Anderson Halperin’s illustrations are worth taking the time to peruse; they offer a multi-faceted interpretation of the text.
Tweedle Dee Dee, by Charlotte Voake, Candlewick Press, 2008
Whimsical watercolor and ink illustrations accompany the text of “The Green Leaves Grew Around”, a traditional folk song. There is lots of repetition as details are added to the song (“the nest was on the branch, the branch was on the tree, the tree was in the wood, and the green leaves grew…”)
The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Gennady Spirin
Yankee Doodle: A Revolutionary Tale, by Gary Chalk, Dorling Kindersley, 1993
The American Revolution to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”. This book starts with an introduction to the song and it’s roots, including a helpful explanation of the line, “Stuck a feather in his cap and called it ‘macaroni’.” The next two pages have the actual song, with music and 16 verses. From there, the author takes us through key points of the Revolutionary War, told in verse on the left page of the spread and explained on the right page. The author explains that this is a “nursery version” of the war, fought by mice, rabbits, pigs and possums with hobbyhorses and capguns.
Ah, Music!, by Aliki, Harper Collins Publishers, 2003
A general introduction to music, covering sound, rhythm, melody, pitch and tone, volume and feeling, then going on to discuss music as an art form, written music, the orchestra and conductor, song, dance and the history and diversity of music. This book has basic information with lots of playful pictures and does a really good job of avoiding wordiness.
Can You Hear It?, by William Lach, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006
Art and music appreciation rolled into one book with CD. Each track of music is paired with a corresponding piece of artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as questions that are designed to point out musical details and images. Copland is paired with Remington, Vivaldi with Brueghel the Younger, Rossini with Currier and Ives. Includes an introduction to musical instruments and notes on both the art and music.
Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido D’Arezzo, by Susan Roth
I See the Rhythm, by Toyomi Igus, illustrated by Michelle Wood
The illustrations came first in this book about the history of African American music. Artist Michelle Wood created each painting while listening to the style of music from each time period she was representing, then Toyomi Igus wrote a poem to go along with each painting. Each page also has a sidebar with historical information and a brief timeline highlighting events from each period.
M is for Music, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Stacy Innerst, Harcourt, Inc., 2003
A musical alphabet book, with notes in the back that give a bit of background for the words featured by each letter. Some examples: H is for Hildegard of Bingen, K is for Klezmer, and N is for Nutcracker.
Mole Music, by David McPhail
Music Is, by Lloyd Moss
Pythagoras and the Ratios, by Julie Ellis, illustrated by Phyllis Hornung Peacock, Charlesbridge
Bellerophon Coloring Books of Great Composers:
Bach to Berlioz
Chopin to Tchaikovsky
Mahler to Stravinsky
Dover Great Composers Coloring Book
The Amazing Pop-Up Music Book,
A series of CDs that combine the music of a particular composer with a fictional child character into a story based on historical fact. The stories are fun, and are filled with information about the composer and a wide sampling of their music. The music itself is not always top-notch across the board, but the overall effect of these CDs is an effortless introduction to a number of composers, their lives, and their music.
Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Mozart’s Magic Fantasy
Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage
Mr. Bach Comes to Call
Tchaikovsky Discovers America
Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery
Song of the Unicorn
Composers DVDs, Devine Entertainment Corporation:
Bach’s Fight for Freedom
Handel’s Last Chance
Strauss: King of ¾ Time