Posts filed under books

Learn About Beethoven

“Music is a higher revelation than philosophy.” ~ Ludwig van Beethoven

The music of Beethoven has spoken to listeners for nearly 250 years. His symphonies, sonatas, concertos, chamber music, and MORE have gained him the reputation as one of the most important composers in history - if not THE most important composer in history.

Giving our children a knowledge of the life, times, and music of Beethoven is a gift they will carry their entire lives. It will build an appreciation and love for music that will stay with them forever.

Learn About Ludwig van Beethoven - resources and ideas to teach children of all ages

Children’s Books About Beethoven

Children learn so much through stories. Quality stories of the composers give us a glimpse into the life and times behind the music.

Beethoven certainly had a colorful life (to say the least), and stories about him are engaging, funny, and often sad. It is good for our children to see the many facets of the composer, and to understand what drove him to write so many beautiful masterpieces.

Learn About Beethoven - simple resources for children

Movies About Beethoven

Download and print this picture of Beethoven to include your SQUILT binder - or just to put up in your schoolroom as you are learning about Beethoven!

Favorite Beethoven Recordings

One of the easiest ways to expose our children to the music of Beethoven is just to play the music everywhere and often! Use these recordings to help:

And of course, the best way to learn about a composer’s music is to LISTEN. This video should give you enough to listen to for a while!

Learn About Beethoven in SQUILT LIVE!

In October we are celebrating the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Join us for the month and receive TWO live lessons (taught by Mary, a degreed music specialist), a 31 day Beethoven listening calendar, and access to our ENTIRE archives, which includes over 25 video lessons and printable lesson packets.

A SQUILT LIVE! membership is perfect for children preschool - middle school. Our lessons appeal to all ages learning together.

Posted on September 26, 2018 and filed under Composer Study, books, how to teach music apprec, music appreciation.

Learn About Charles Ives: What Charlie Heard

Let's add to our growing list of music and book pairings!

Our subject is Charles Ives, the American composer who changed the landscape of music in the Modern Era. 

Through the book, What Charlie Heard, (along with another picture book about Ives), and the music lesson presented in this post, your children can learn about this musical pioneer - whose music was often SHOCKING and UNANTICIPATED.

Complimentary Lessons About Music & Stories: What Charlie Heard (Charles Ives)

Read the Story: What Charlie Heard

The extremely busy illustrations draw children into this picture book immediately. And, from the very first sentence we know that Charles Ives was going to become something great: 

"Charles Ives was born with his ears wide open."

Taking the reader on a trip through Charlie's childhood in New England, the author (Mordicai Gerstein) shows all of the places, events, and influences that would shape the music of the older Charles Ives. Interestingly enough, music was Ives' second career - his first was as an extremely successful insurance salesman.

His Third Symphony won a Pulitzer Prize, and when Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic broadcast his Second Symphony from Carnegie Hall, his music was known all across America - and eventually all around the world!

The fun thing about Ives' music is the way he chose to combine instruments (even two marching bands at one time!), and use snippets of already familiar folk tunes and hymns to create a uniquely American sound.


Learn About Charles Ives' Variations on America

Before we learn about one of Charles Ives' most famous pieces, his Variations on America, let's listen to the original "America" - also known as "My Country 'Tis of Thee". 

Samuel Smith wrote this song (which eventually became America's unofficial national anthem). It was his intent to write a song that would allow the American people to give their praise to God for their wonderful land. 

My Country 'Tis of Thee has become even an international favorite - being used in England as "God Save the Queen/King".

(You might also enjoy the picture book My Country 'Tis of Thee, which chronicles the interesting history of the song.)

Have your children watch this video. Note the beautiful chorus that sings the song, and how it stirs up our patriotic emotions. It was these emotions that Charles Ives wanted to build upon when he composed his Variations on America.

Theme and Variations?

In music, we have a certain form (a way of organizing a piece of music) called Theme and Variations. 

In Ives' piece the THEME is the main theme  -- the "My Country 'Tis of Thee" melody. The VARIATIONS are those changes to the main theme that Ives makes throughout the piece. 

The overall form of this piece is a theme and 6 variations

Charles Ives wrote this piece for pipe organ - although over time it has been arranged for band and orchestra as well. 

Listen to the piece -- can you hear the main theme?  Can you hear the variations?

( Hint:  The first variation begins at 1:46. )

This piece is SUCH FUN!  Just watch the organist explore the possibilities of sound on the organ and you will be delighted!

Now, how about a different arrangement of the same piece? This time - a symphony orchestra!


In our SQUILT LIVE! lessons for the end of June, 2018 we explore this piece in greater depth - following a listening map to learn where the variations begin and end, characteristics of each, etc...

Draw What You Hear

As your children listen to the music, encourage them to draw what they hear.

They can also listen for the different variations and what makes them sound different - different instruments, major vs. minor, etc...

Some children may want to complete a drawing for each of the variations they hear. 

Let them be creative - the point is to enjoy the music and to think critically about what they are hearing. 

More Music By Charles Ives

Play more music by Charles Ives for your children. Here are a few good pieces to get you started.



Variations on America will be one of pieces I teach about LIVE this summer in the SQUILT LIVE! membership.

We'll spend 45 minutes learning about the piece - the instrumentation, rhythm, mood, tempo, dynamics, and more!

It's going to be a wonderful summer of learning about patriotic music. Don't miss it!

Posted on June 18, 2018 and filed under books, Free Lessons.

15 Picture Books About Music

Children can learn just about anything from a beautiful picture book.

In our ongoing efforts to bring quality music to children, we're bringing you complimentary music lessons that go along with some of our favorite picture books. 

Following is a list of 15 of our favorite picture books that have music connections. There are SO MANY MORE, but these are 15 that have been used, well-loved, and requested time and again. They are also books that will naturally go along with many of our SQUILT self-directed music appreciation volumes and our SQUILT LIVE! lessons.

Let these suggestions provide a springboard for developing a love and appreciation of composers, instruments, and music in general! 


15 Picture Books About Music

Picture Books About Performers

{The four books in this category spotlight Jazz musicians who have broken racial barriers to become legendary performers, composers, and musical pioneers.}

In our SQUILT LIVE! studies this year we will focus on African-Americans and Jazz in February, Black History Month. 



This Caldecott Honor book, written by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews is the story of his childhood growing up in New Orleans and falling in love with the "musical gumbo" of the city.

The message of the book is very powerful - and it also inspires young children to become musicians.  Children can learn about Jazz, New Orleans, the trombone, and much more!


When Marian Sang

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson


 This book serves as a wonderful, approachable introduction to opera and also the struggles of an African-American opera singer in the United States.

~ "Marian knew about prejudice. She had seen the trolley drive past her family as they stood at the corner. She knew that her people were always the last to be helped in a store. But she could not understand how anyone who was surrounded by the spirit and beauty of music could be so narrow-minded."

Marian Anderson's (1897-1993) journey to a performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was long and fraught with prejudice, presidential involvement, and the breaking down of walls that sometimes only music can accomplish. The gorgeous illustrations and text from so many famous songs will engage readers of all ages. 


Skit-Skat Raggedy Cat

This book - actually a short first chapter book - is the perfect introduction to Ella Fitzgerald and Scat Singing! 

To learn about an African American music pioneer - who was also a woman - is important for our children. And.... this is ELLA FITGERALD, whose music is fun and engaging for adults and children alike. 

Children will love learning a little more about Ella and listening to her radio hit from the 1930's, A Tisket A Tasket!




Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

The perfect companion to Ella Fitzgerald is Duke Ellington, one of the pioneers of Jazz.  (He can really fall into the composer category, too!)

The Duke Ellington Orchestra played at the Cotton Club in New York City for five years and brought the new sounds of Jazz to that city. 

Duke Ellington is now regarded as one of the most innovative performers, composers, and conductors in history. 

"Because of Duke's genius, his Orchestra now had a musical mix like no other. Now you've heard of the jazz-playin' man. The man with the cats who could swing with his band. King of the Kyes. Piano Prince. Edward Kennedy Ellington. The Duke."

Picture Books About Composers

Most people have heard of Bach, Mozart, Sousa, and Gershwin;  you may not, however, know about Cristofori or Ives.

The six books in this category cover composers from the Baroque to Modern Eras. 

(And, if you are familiar with our SQUILT Musical Eras series, being able to place a composer in a musical era and identify the era by the sound of the music is a skill children can get quite good at!)


Becoming Bach

JS Bach is one the composers all children should learn about. (He's even one of our SQUILT Spotlight composers!)

This GORGEOUS book - told from the perspective of Johann Sebastian Bach - features large two-page spreads that completely captivate the eye. Younger children, in particular, will gravitate towards this book because of its simplicity and vivid illustrations.

The story also provides a lot of information about the legendary Bach family tree and JS Bach's obsession with patterns in music. 



We don't often give much thought the invention of the piano - when it was invented, why it was invented, and WHO invented it. 

This book is perfect for your young piano players, as well as any reader who wants to learn about this instrument. 

We like the book because it also gives readers a lot of musical terms, which we strive to incorporate in all of our SQUILT lessons!




Mozart: Scenes from the Childhood of the Great Composer

This is one you'll just have to reserve from your library, because it is difficult to find it anywhere to purchase. 

Narrated by Mozart's sister, Nannerl, this book provides an insight into the childhood of Wolfi (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). It is interesting because it also provides a glimpse into the fact that his sister could have been every bit as famous as Mozart - if it weren't socially unacceptable for women to be professional musicians in the Classical Era. 

The book takes us on the travels of Nannerl and Wolfi - with their triumphs and tragedies. 

Mozart was quite a character as a youngster, and children can relate to him quite well. For this reason, Mozart is always a favorite when we learn about him in our SQUILT LIVE! classes!



Anything written by Patricia Polacco is wonderful, and her historical fiction picture book about the ducks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis is no exception! 

Based on the actual ducks at the hotel, Polacco gives us John Philip Duck - one very special duck who is trained to perform to the music of the legendary John Philip Sousa - known as The March King. 

You might also enjoy our complimentary music lesson to go along with this book! 

(And we think a trip to the Peabody Hotel is definitely in order, too!)



The Music in George's Head

This story - which traces George Gershwin's life and what influenced him to write Rhapsody in Blue - helps children learn more about this American Modern Era great.

"It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty-bang that is often so stimulating to a composer...And there I suddenly heard - and even saw on paper - the complete construction of the rhapsody, from beginning to end."

A reading of this story will naturally be followed by listening to Rhapsody in Blue, which is a piece all children be familiar with. 




What Charlie Heard

The illustrations in What Charlie Heard perfectly reflect the music of Charles Ives - unexpected, sometimes chaotic, and FUN! 

One of our SQUILT LIVE! composers for the summer of 2018, Charles Ives developed a unique AMERICAN sound. He gained inspiration from everyday things in his daily life in New England. 

After reading this book we might wonder where the future of music history (does that make sense?) is headed -- in 100 years what will children be studying that reflects our current day?


Other Picture Books About Music


The Story of the Incredible Orchestra

This book serves as the perfect general introduction to the instruments of the orchestra. Once children are able to identify instruments by sight and sound they are then able to speak quite articulately about a piece of music!

( Tip: Use our Meet The Instruments cards and curated videos to learn along as you read this book. )



A retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm story, The Bremen Town Musicians is just a FUN read for your children! It's one of those "must know" stories for childhood.

Younger children especially will enjoy making sounds to go along with each of the animals in their journey to Bremen Town - maybe even gathering some rhythm instruments and playing along to make it extra fun. 




This book - a Reading Rainbow selection - is a sweet story that encourages children to think about their elders in different ways.

Reading the book can spark discussions about the music our grandparents enjoyed, and how favorite music can vary from place to place. 

Such a SWEET book that your children will remember for a long time.



The Singing Snake

Teach your children about the DIGERIDOO with this beautifully illustrated book!  

We guarantee your children will ALWAYS remember the instrument and where we get the expression "snake in the grass". 

In a recent reading of this book to a group of children, you could have heard a PIN DROP because of the children's anticipation of what was going to happen to the main character in this story. It's truly a fun story that will have your children begging you to play the sound of the digeridoo when it is over!


My Country 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights

A large part of music is SONG, and this book teaches children about the history of Civil Rights through one song.

Tracing the song from Colonial days all the way until modern times, we learn the power of a song and its lyrics - and how those lyrics can inspire and empower generations of people. 

This is a song all children should know - and this book does a beautiful job of helping us teach it to them! 



Trombone ShortyWhen Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian AndersonSkit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Candlewick Biographies: Ella FitzgeraldDuke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His OrchestraBecoming BachThe Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori & the Invention of the PianoMozart: Scenes from the Childhood of the Great Composer (Windy Edge) (2005-04-30)John Philip DuckThe Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in BlueWhat Charlie HeardThe Story of the Incredible Orchestra: An Introduction to Musical Instruments and the Symphony OrchestraBremen Town MusiciansGeorgia MusicThe Singing SnakeMy Country, 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights


Join us at any time for live music appreciation lessons - let your children do the learning while you take a break!

Posted on June 15, 2018 and filed under books.

Music Appreciation for Summer

Summer is the perfect time to give your children something different - something you might not have included during the regular school year.

The summer months are also the time when we celebrate our patriotic holidays - Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. 

A knowledge of American music is essential - the music of American composers reflects our history, values, emotions, and attitudes. Music allows us to celebrate, reflect, and truly see into the spirit of people.

Join us this summer as we explore American music - best of all, parents/teachers don't have to do a thing. Let ME teach your children in live music appreciation sessions each month!

Music Appreciation to Celebrate America 

Several broad categories of American music are included - March, Folk, Broadway, and Symphonic.  (We have already studied Ragtime and Scott Joplin in our SQUILT LIVE! lessons this past year.. download a video sample of that lesson for FREE! )

(In our LIVE! lessons we will celebrate the life of Leonard Bernstein. His 100th birthday would have been in August. The impact he had on American music is tremendous.)

Play these pieces for your children. Do a little research about each one. Learn about the composers. Draw pictures. Encourage your little ones to respond with movement.

A list of books to go along with this theme is also provided at the end of the post.

Six pieces are given here. If your children want more, simply look for other pieces by the same composer. You can always fall down a music rabbit hole quite easily! 


In our monthly SQUILT LIVE! lessons we will be exploring these pieces in greater depth, and learning more American music through our monthly listening calendars. PLUS, when you join SQUILT LIVE! you immediately receive access to over 200 hours of archived lessons and teaching materials. 

Join before June 1 and take advantage of our low introductory rates!


The Waltzing Cat by Leroy Anderson


Variations on America by Charles Ives


Washington Post March by John Philip Sousa


Oh, Susanna! (arranged for orchestra) by Stephen Foster


Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein


Mambo from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein



Books to Enhance the Music

What Charlie HeardJohn Philip DuckMy Country, 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil RightsAmerica My Country 'Tis of Thee: An American Song About Freedom (Patriotic Songs)Music Was IT: Young Leonard Bernstein88 InstrumentsM is for Melody: A Music Alphabet (Art and Culture)


Enjoy a summer of music appreciation with your children!

I'd love for your children to join us in SQUILT LIVE! this summer -- parents love the flexibility, convenience, and ease of use for MULTIPLE ages!

“We began using the SQUILT program last year and my daughter has enjoyed it but having the opportunity for her to learn directly from you is a blessing!”
— SQUILT LIVE! parent
“I am so pleased with what you put together. I am teaching 5 children in a co-op. Their ages and abilities vary. It’s so rewarding to see them learning this material, and being excited about it. “
— SQUILT LIVE co-op teacher
“You are such a blessing. We are thankful to have you and your love for music as part of our homeschool and part of our lives. Though we may only spend an hour “with” you during our Live sessions, your spirit and passion stay with us long after.

Thank you for making music magical.”
— SQUILT LIVE! parent
Posted on May 17, 2018 and filed under books, holidays, SQUILT LIVE!.

Best Books for Music Appreciation

The gift of music appreciation lasts a lifetime. 

Through the SQUILT curriculum, learning HOW to appreciate beautiful music is simple and FUN!  

Once our children begin to learn about great music, it naturally leads to a curiosity about the composers of that music, and to a curiosity about instruments, the orchestra, and much more. 

Following is a listing of books that are on our shelves at home - books that have been read to children when I taught elementary music, and books that have been read (and re-read) to my own children. 


Best Books for Music Appreciation

This post contains affiliate links. 


Book Organization


Most of our homeschool books are organized in IKEA Billy Bookcases in our basement. 

I have a section that is simply for Fine Arts, and the music books occupy one shelf.

They are categorized by general books, biographies, and stories in music. 

By keeping the books in easy sight, I can reference them more often, and i can also encourage my children to reference them more often, too.

Of course, sometimes I strew good books around the house, so if we're learning about Beethoven I might put out my favorite Opal Wheeler Beethoven biography on the coffee table in the family room, or just casually leave it on the kitchen table.  

You will find this list to be simple and of the highest quality... less is more when providing resources for children. 

Best Books for Music Appreciation

Composer Biographies

Favorite Composer Biographies

Opal Wheeler Composer Biographies  --- lovely stories about composers as children. My own children relate to these so well and they are EXTREMELY well written. 

Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers -- light stories about the composers, but with a lot of information and fun cartoons -- great for all ages. 

Lives of the Musicians (Good Times, Bad Times, and What the Neighbors Thought) -- humorous stories about composers

Famous Children Series -- great for younger children -- simple stories with a lot of basic composer information

Stories in Music

A great way to go DEEPER with a composer is to explore a particular piece of music in depth.  

These stories in music offer our children the opportunity to learn about the history of a piece and its composer. Most of them come with a quality recording of the music, so I highly recommend these for ANY time. 

Peter and the Wolf

The Carnival of the Animals

Rhapsody in Blue

VIvaldi's Four Seasons

The Farewell Symphony

The Magic Flute


Do YOU have a favorite book about the orchestra, composers, or just music in general?  Please share it in the comments below and we can add to the list! 

(And don't forget to check out the SQUILT Music Appreciation series - a simple open and go curriculum designed for parents with no musical knowledge! )

Best Books for Music Appreciation

Take ONE thing off your plate. Let us teach your children music appreciation.

Sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee... Or learn with us. 


Posted on December 29, 2015 and filed under Composer Study, books.