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Books About Music and Musicians

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Best Children’s Books About Music

From clefs and composers to instruments and improvisations, music is a pastime that many children come to love in their primary years. We’ve put together a list of the best children’s books about music, composers, instruments, singing and performing…

Non-fiction books about music

Nicholas O'Neill & Susan Hayes
 & Ruby Taylor
Non-fiction
Learn about how different genres started - including classical, folk, jazz, gospel, rock 'n' roll, country, punk, grunge and pop. Discover the stories of maestros including Beethoven, Wei Liangfu, Django Reinhardt, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Maria Callas, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong and Beyonce. Marvel at the orchestra with a huge illustration set in the Royal Albert Hall, and find out about ancient instruments from all over the world. Experience amazing musical moments from the first ever saxophone and early sound recording to the invention of the record and artificial intelligence. All this and more features in this richly illustrated timeline of music from 60,000 years ago to the present day.
Avalon Nuovo
 & David Doran
Picturebook

This stylish non-fiction book about the orchestra hits all the right notes to inspire and inform children in primary schools.

The compendium of all things musical includes sections on individual instruments of the orchestra, a diversity of notable composers and famous pieces of music and finally a section about musicology including modern music and music technology. The tone of the text conveys clear passion for the subject matter and the author is quick to point out how music is all around us in both nature and culture. David Doran’s stylish artwork makes you almost want to reach in and try out the instruments for yourself and despite our recommendation, we take no responsibility for children pestering parents to organise clarinet or double bass lessons after being exposed to this book (perhaps the cover should come with a warning!).

Through text, illustrations and diagrams, the book contains scores of information about different aspects of music and is a real must-have to support your music curriculum in school as well as to offer as an enjoyable non-fiction read for pleasure.

Nancy Dickmann
 & Sue Downing
Non-fiction
How on Earth do you play a bass that's 3.5 metres tall? How can you play a theremin without touching it? Can you turn a cave's stalactites into an organ? (Spoiler alert: yes, you can!) Including a stunning central gatefold that opens out to reveal the family tree of musical instruments, this book is a visual celebration of the huge variety of instruments played across the world, from those you know to those you almost certainly don't. Grouped into percussion instruments, wind, and string, as well as the weird and wonderful that defy categorization, readers will discover how they are all related to each other in 'families', and enjoy exploring the musical family tree as a fold-out poster. Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments covers traditional instruments from various cultures, such as the gamelan and mbira, as well as the creations of modern artists and musicians, such as the Wintergatan Marble Machine and the eerie-sounding yaybahar. Readers will even discover a band that plays exclusively on instruments fashioned from fresh vegetables, and makes the offcuts into soup to serve to the audience!
Mary Auld
 & Elisa Paganelli
Non-fiction
Find out what makes up an orchestra and learn about its different instruments with this beautifully illustrated book, produced in association with the London Symphony Orchestra. This wonderfully illustrated story follows a conductor who is auditioning each instrument for his orchestra. With accompanying CDs and downloadable music, follow our conductor on his journey and discover the beautiful music of an orchestra. With pictograms of a full-size symphony orchestra and information on all of the music featured, as well as a foreword by Sir Simon Rattle, Music Director of the LSO, this is the must-have book on the orchestra and its instruments for children aged 7+.

Books about musicians

Olivier Cachin
 & Jérôme Masi
Non-fiction
The biggest names… the coolest sounds… the 40 most inspirational movers, shakers and innovators in black music are here! In this fun, fact-packed book from the 40 Inspiring Icons series, learn how these black musicians changed music, from the creation of blues to the invention of rap. Meet the Godfather of Funk, the High Priestess of Soul and the King of Reggae. Learn how Marvin Gaye shaped the sound of Motown, how N.W.A. redefined rap and what made the Supremes, supreme. From Robert Johnson, who recorded one of the first examples of the blues in 1936, to rap superstar Drake, whose 2012 album Views spent 13 weeks at number one on the US Billboard 200, these are the 40 black artists to be listened to and learned about by all: Robert Johnson; Nina Simone; James Brown; Sly & the Family Stone; Miles Davis; Diana Ross & the Supremes; The Jackson 5; Marvin Gaye; Stevie Wonder; Aretha Franklin; Earth, Wind & Fire; Isaac Hayes; Tina Turner; Donna Summer; Bob Marley & the Wailers; Prince; Fela Kuti; The Last Poets; Chic; The Sugarhill Gang; Run-DMC; Eric B. & Rakim; Public Enemy; N.W.A.; Whitney Houston; 2Pac; The Fugees; Snoop Dogg; The Notorious B.I.G.; Erykah Badu; Jay-Z; Missy Elliott; Kanye West; Beyoncé; Pharrell Williams; Rihanna; Lil Wayne; Drake; Nicki Minaj; The Weeknd. Each spread presents a single musician or band, highlighting key facts about their background, most popular songs, most iconic shows, genre-defining techniques, friends, rivals and nicknames, along with a fun, illustrated depiction of them that calls out elements of their signature style. With so many icons to choose from, which will you add to your playlist?
Shannon Stocker
 & Devon Holzwarth
Picturebook
This inspiring picture book tells the true story of world-famous deaf percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie . This is a story of music. Of obstacles. Of strength and hard work. Of all you can accomplish when you dream. As a child, Evelyn Glennie's ears began to hurt. Voices became distant whispers. Ringing phones sounded like muffled crunches in her ears. But when she was told that she would need to wear hearing aids for the rest of her life, Evelyn was determined that this this would never stop her from playing music. Instead of giving up on her dreams, Evelyn found new ways to listen... With stunning illustrations from Devon Holzwarth, and a special note from Evelyn Glennie herself, this is the perfect book to inspire children to never give up on their dreams.
Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
 & Melissa Lee Johnson
Non-fiction Picturebook
At just 8 years old, it was clear that Steveland Judkins was going to be a star. Renamed Stevie Wonder for his astonishing talent on the piano and other instruments, he wrote and performed some of the biggest hits of the 1970s. Stevie became known for his inventiveness, his soulful voice and the social commentary in his lyrics. He is a UN Messenger of Peace and remains one of the music world's most iconic figures. This inspiring book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back , including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the great musician's life.
Helen Hancocks
Picturebook
Ella Fitzgerald sang the blues and she sang them good. Ella and her fellas were on the way up! It seemed like nothing could stop her, until the biggest club in town refused to let her play... and all because of her colour. But when all hope seemed lost, little did Ella imagine that a Hollywood star would step in to help. This is the incredible true story of how a remarkable friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe was born - and how they worked together to overcome prejudice and adversity. An inspiring story, strikingly illustrated, about the unlikely friendship between two celebrated female icons of America's golden age.

Picturebooks about music

Kes Gray
 & Fred Blunt
Picturebook
A laugh-out-loud musical story full of hilarious word play and silliness from the author of Oi Frog! , brilliantly illustrated by Fred Blunt. Flinty Bo Diddle is writing a tune for his fiddle. All his diddles have lined up nicely - except for one who keeps going DUM, right in the middle! No matter what he tries he just can't get this diddle to diddle like it's supposed to! A story about standing out from the crowd that will have you in fits of giggles! Kes Gray is the author of the top ten bestselling series Oi Frog and Friends, which has sold 1.4 million copies to date.
David Almond
 & Levi Pinfold
A lyrical, captivating and beautiful picture book by Carnegie Medal-winner David Almond, illustrated by Kate Greenaway Medal-winner Levi Pinfold. When a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play - for this would be the last time that music would be heard in this place. In this astonishing picture book that combines themes of loss, hope and music David Almond pays homage to all musicians, showing the ancient and unstoppable power of creativity.
Levi Pinfold
This picture book is popular in Key Stage 2. It portrays a Romani boy called Jean, who is drawn in by a special character called the Django. The Django is full of fun but always seems to get Jean into trouble. One day the Django disappears and Jean finds a way to feel close to him by playing his own music on the banjo. The illustrations are rich in detail and evocative of the Romani community in which Jean lives.
Jackie Morris & James Mayhew
Picturebook
Mrs Noah's Garden is a magical tale that begins when the ark has come to rest on the top of a barren mountain, surrounded by water. The Bible story of Noah and the flood is a jumping off point for this book and this imagined tale weaves an enchanting story of the creation of a garden, encompassing along the way the essences of human existence and its relationships. Jackie Morris unveils through her lyrical and beautiful use of language, the creation of a garden by Mrs Noah, a strong, determined and graceful character. The book introduces children to the names of trees and flowers, to the process of planting, caring and growing as the book develops. There are passing references to old nursery rhymes that may need to be pointed out to children to enable them to explore the richness of this text further. On the surface, this is a book about the creation of a garden, but woven through are themes of diversity and inclusion, hope and migration, the value and richness of creation, new beginnings and an environmental message about the interdependence of living things. This is why this book could be shared with children in Year 1 and in Year 6 - exploring the story, the language and the themes in different ways. The most immediate impact of this book is from its illustrations. James Mayhew creates the garden in the story, using vibrant collage and print making techniques. The illustrations are unique works of art and deserve to be studied and explored in their own right. The use of colour moves the reader from the grey and barren beginnings to a garden bursting with life and vitality in the final pages. Noah and Mrs Noah are shown as a couple from two heritages working together to create both a home for themselves and their children but also for an abundance of wildlife, real and mythical. This is a book that deserves time spent on it; time to dwell on the illustrations and time to dwell on the language. Mrs Noah's Pockets, written and illustrated by the same pair would be a good book to read alongside, considering the development of the character of Mrs Noah. Reviewer: Jane Carter
Clare Foges
 & Al Murphy
Picturebook
At night when you are sleeping There's a party in your house, It's a pumping, jumping, funky bash When all the lights go out . . . When the sun goes down, the Kitchen Disco starts up - and all the fruit in the fruit bowl come out to play. There are lemons who break-dance, tangerines who twirl and some very over-excited apples. Kitchen Disco is a zany and hilarious rhyming picture book for young children, featuring a stunning holographic foil spread in the middle of the book.

Richard O'Neill & Katharine Quarmby
 & Hannah Tolson
Picturebook
A Traveller girl creates her own musical instrument from a willow branch and lots of recycled objects. She plays it enthusiastically, but it sounds terrible! Ignoring warnings not to awaken the ogre in the hills, Ossiri goes there to practise playing her instrument. Will she wake the ogre, and will it appreciate her playing? Told by a Romani storyteller and a picture book author, this original tale offers a fascinating insight into Travelling lifestyles and cultures.
Eddie Ayres
Chapter book
In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Sonam's world is dark and silent. Then one day, she follows a magical melodious sound to a walled garden, and her world is silent no more. The sound is music, and it lifts her up amongst the stars and takes her deeper than the tree roots in the earth. How can she hold on to this feeling in a world where music is forbidden? A lyrical fable-like story by the well-known musician, author and broadcaster Eddie Ayres, about the irrepressible power of music.
Susan Hood
 & Sally Wern Comport
Picturebook
From award-winning author Susan Hood and illustrator Sally Wern Comport comes the extraordinary true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash. Ada Rios 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 Chavez 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.

Chapter books about music

Sylvia Bishop
 & Ashley King
Chapter book
The first book in a heartwarming and timeless new series with a brave and spirited heroine, from the acclaimed duo behind THE BOOKSHOP GIRL . Betsy Bow-Linnet is determined to become a world famous concert pianist like her parents. There's just one problem: no matter how hard she practises she doesn't share their musical talents. So when a mysterious letter arrives from a woman claiming to know of an unusual Method that will make Betsy's playing 'stupendous', Betsy jumps at the chance. There's just one condition: she must keep the Method a secret. But it isn't just one secret - it's forty-four tiny secrets in the shape of a boxful of pygmy mice! Betsy is mystified - how are they going to help her play the piano and - more importantly - how on earth can she keep them all a secret? Gorgeously illustrated in two-colour, this is a warm, funny and pitch-perfect story about the true nature of family love and finding your real talents in the most unexpected of places. Perfect for fans of ISADORA MOON, AMELIA FANG, OTTOLINE and HARPER.
Anne Fine
 & Roxana De Rond
Chapter book
Everyone's always telling Will to stop making so much noise. That is, until he meets music teacher Mr Brand. He thinks Will's not just noisy but that he has a gift and must learn to play the violin. But Will doesn't feel special . He can never find peace to practice at home and carrying a violin around school is too embarrassing. There's also the small matter of his stage fright ... Can he really become the star Mr Brand believes in? Beloved and award-winning author Anne Fine returns with a touching, musical story of patience, practice and courage. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+.
Stewart Foster
Chapter book
A profound story about inner strength and perseverance in the face of a life-changing event, from the award-winning author of The Bubble Boy . Perfect for fans of R. J. Palacio's Wonder and Lisa Thompson's The Goldfish Boy. Life is going well for Sophie. She's getting by at school, has some pretty awesome friends, and their band have made it through to the semifinals of the Battle of the Bands competition. But when Sophie wakes up completely deaf one morning, the life she once knew seems like a distant memory. With lessons replaced by endless hospital appointments, and conversations now an exercise in lip-reading, Sophie grows quieter and quieter. Until she discovers the vibrations of sound through an old set of drums and wonders whether life onstage is actually still within reach. Drawing on the author's own hearing impairment, Can You Feel the Noise? is a deeply personal and moving story that will stay with you long after reading.
Aimee Lucido
Chapter book

Suitable for Upper KS2/Lower KS3, this is a verse novel about an American girl called Emmy who tries to figure out the ups and downs of life while balancing her two separate passions; coding and music. As the book progresses, Emmy’s two worlds begin to interweave, showing how notes, beats and rhythms overlap with code, language and algorithms.

Zillah Bethell
Chapter book

The Song Walker is a soulful story that beautifully serenades the reader with themes of freedom, identity, music and heritage. Zillah Bethell’s writing always takes readers to new horizons.

The author’s previous book The Shark Caller was a real favourite here at BooksForTopics HQ and also among our community of teachers and librarians. The Song Walker is a new standalone adventure that shares a similar intensity of setting and an interweaving of gentle existentialist musings with relatable themes of making friendships and searching for identity in the face of cultural and familial expectations.

This time, the setting is the Australian Outback and the reader feels the blazing heat and dryness of the red, flat landscape that spans underneath a limitless sky. The main character, who is nameless at the start of the story, appears to have no idea how she got there or who she is. She carries a mysterious case and finds herself on a search for answers accompanied by her new friend, Tarni. Journeying deeper into the desert landscape, the girl has to dig deep into her inner self to find answers about who she is and who she wants to be. 

Tarni’s character adds real depth to the story. She is a First Country Australian girl from the traditional Alaywarre community. Tarni navigates the Outback using a traditional form of mapping – not with paper maps or satellite technology but with songlines, with which routes are passed from generation to generation by repeating the words of a song. The differences and similarities between the two girls become increasingly celebrated as the story progresses, showing how a bond between people from different cultural heritages and lifestyles can be mutually enriching. 

The story is philosophical and at times dream-like, with a melodic quality to the writing. The book is perfect for mature readers in upper kS2 who enjoy an immersive reading experience and a thought-provoking narrative with the potential to stir some very profound discussion questions.


A.F. Harrold
 & Levi Pinfold
Chapter book

A dark and unusual story, edged with humour, about family relationships and an unlikely friendship. As a child discovers a secret, she is compelled to make a difficult choice about whether to betray someone she didn’t ever expect to be friends with. Frank is strong, brave and wistful in the face of her tormentors with her anxieties expressed through vivid stomach-churning moments, such as when a gang suspends her over a patch of stinging nettles. Frank’s surprising empathy for the bully is a great starting point for discussion: “She would have been lying if she had denied that a tiny corner of her heart celebrated at the sight of him diminished and broken, but she wasn’t proud of it”.

Levi Pinfold’s haunting illustrations profoundly add to the intrigue and mood of the story.

Tom McLaughlin
Chapter book

A laugh-a-minute story about overnight internet success. Ollie and Hector dream of being rock stars, but unfortunately they have very little musical talent. One day, as they are making their own music video in Ollie’s room, a twist of fate shoots them to overnight success online. Before they know it, they become the biggest stars in the world – even though it was actually Ollie’s pet cat Nigel who is responsible for their music going viral.

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