15 Picture Books About Music

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


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. 


 Trombone Shorty

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! 


These books are just the tip of the iceberg - but definitely some of our favorites here at SQUILT Music Appreciation.  




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

 SQUILT LIVE! Music Appreciation LEssons

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