Picture Books

6 Swinging Picture Books about Music and Musicians

If your kids fill your house with the cacophony of banged-on pots, sound-emitting games, and off-key singing, you just might have a musician or two on your hands. But what kind of music will each kid prefer? These picture books will help you explore classical, rock, hip-hop, jazz, and pop music.

Violet's Music

Violet's Music

Hardcover $18.99

Violet's Music

By Angela Johnson
Illustrator Laura Huliska-Beith

In Stock Online

Hardcover $18.99

Violet’s Music, by Angela Johnson and Laura Huliska-Beith
When Violet was a baby, “she banged her rattle against the crib, hoping others in the nursery would join in.” Violet was born to boogie and as she grows up, she keeps seeking other kids who have the same affinity for a good beat. She hopes to find them at kindergarten—but discovers other kids prefer to paint, play in the sandbox, or “stand around eating paste.” Finally, when she’s a bit older, and strumming her guitar in the park, kids just like her hear her tune and they form a band.

Violet’s Music, by Angela Johnson and Laura Huliska-Beith
When Violet was a baby, “she banged her rattle against the crib, hoping others in the nursery would join in.” Violet was born to boogie and as she grows up, she keeps seeking other kids who have the same affinity for a good beat. She hopes to find them at kindergarten—but discovers other kids prefer to paint, play in the sandbox, or “stand around eating paste.” Finally, when she’s a bit older, and strumming her guitar in the park, kids just like her hear her tune and they form a band.

The Orchestra Pit

The Orchestra Pit

Hardcover $16.99

The Orchestra Pit

By Johanna Wright
Illustrator Johanna Wright

Hardcover $16.99

The Orchestra Pitby Johanna Wright
The long, green, white-spotted snake who stars in this book knows right away that something is wrong—”I have a feeling I’m in the wrong pit,” he thinks as he crawls over a pile of violins and trombones. “The orchestra pit!” It’s not his snake pit home, but he takes the time to visit all the sections of the orchestra and learn the names and features of the instruments, from the “roomy” tuba to the oboe that charms him like a dancing cobra.

The Orchestra Pitby Johanna Wright
The long, green, white-spotted snake who stars in this book knows right away that something is wrong—”I have a feeling I’m in the wrong pit,” he thinks as he crawls over a pile of violins and trombones. “The orchestra pit!” It’s not his snake pit home, but he takes the time to visit all the sections of the orchestra and learn the names and features of the instruments, from the “roomy” tuba to the oboe that charms him like a dancing cobra.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

Hardcover $16.99 $18.99

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

By Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrator Theodore Taylor III

In Stock Online

Hardcover $16.99 $18.99

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop, by Laban Carrick Hill and Theodore Taylor III
Maybe your kid prefers the turntables to any instrument in the orchestra pit. This true story is about a boy named Clive who fell in love with music when he was growing up in Kingston, Jamaica. He dreamed of becoming a DJ like King George, who “threw the biggest and baddest house parties in the neighborhood.” But soon his family immigrated to the U.S. and settled in the Bronx, as he grew up, and gained the nickname Kool Herc, he decided to throw a Jamaican-style block party. When Kool Herc spun the records that got the neighborhood grooving, and started calling out rhymes over the beats, hip-hop was born, attracting breakdancers and MCs to join the action.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop, by Laban Carrick Hill and Theodore Taylor III
Maybe your kid prefers the turntables to any instrument in the orchestra pit. This true story is about a boy named Clive who fell in love with music when he was growing up in Kingston, Jamaica. He dreamed of becoming a DJ like King George, who “threw the biggest and baddest house parties in the neighborhood.” But soon his family immigrated to the U.S. and settled in the Bronx, as he grew up, and gained the nickname Kool Herc, he decided to throw a Jamaican-style block party. When Kool Herc spun the records that got the neighborhood grooving, and started calling out rhymes over the beats, hip-hop was born, attracting breakdancers and MCs to join the action.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Caldecott Honor Book)

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Caldecott Honor Book)

Paperback $8.99

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Caldecott Honor Book)

By Andrea Pinkney
Illustrator Brian Pinkney

In Stock Online

Paperback $8.99

Duke Ellington, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
If you’ve tried to start your child out with music lessons and they simply didn’t like them—you might just have to try a different type of music. This picture book biography of Duke Ellington could prove inspiring. When Ellington was a boy in the early 1900s, he preferred baseball to piano practice, especially because the music his teachers wanted him to play was “the same tired tune—one-and-two-and-one-and-two.” Duke called this sound “umpy-dump,” and wanted nothing to do with it. Years later, Duke heard a pianist playing a ragtime tune and it “set Duke’s fingers to wiggling.” Inspired by the new sound, Duke practiced relentlessly, began to write his own compositions, helped invent jazz, and became one of the most famous band leaders America has ever known.

Duke Ellington, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
If you’ve tried to start your child out with music lessons and they simply didn’t like them—you might just have to try a different type of music. This picture book biography of Duke Ellington could prove inspiring. When Ellington was a boy in the early 1900s, he preferred baseball to piano practice, especially because the music his teachers wanted him to play was “the same tired tune—one-and-two-and-one-and-two.” Duke called this sound “umpy-dump,” and wanted nothing to do with it. Years later, Duke heard a pianist playing a ragtime tune and it “set Duke’s fingers to wiggling.” Inspired by the new sound, Duke practiced relentlessly, began to write his own compositions, helped invent jazz, and became one of the most famous band leaders America has ever known.

So You Want to Be a Rock Star

So You Want to Be a Rock Star

Hardcover $15.50 $16.99

So You Want to Be a Rock Star

By Audrey Vernick
Illustrator Kirstie Edmunds

Hardcover $15.50 $16.99

So You Want to Be a Rock Star, by Audrey Vernick and Kirstie Edmonds
Maybe classical, hip-hop, and jazz don’t get your kids excited—and they’d rather put on a spiked collar, plug an electric guitar into an amp, and rock out. This book shows kids how to unleash their inner rock star, even if they don’t have “an awesome sound system with cordless microphones.” They can sing into their fists, perfect their rock star struts and strum an air guitar while they close their eyes and “Make the kind of faces you make when your stomach really hurts.” Even if they can’t carry a tune, it doesn’t matter—”Your voice doesn’t need to be perfect,” Vernick writes, “Just really loud.”

So You Want to Be a Rock Star, by Audrey Vernick and Kirstie Edmonds
Maybe classical, hip-hop, and jazz don’t get your kids excited—and they’d rather put on a spiked collar, plug an electric guitar into an amp, and rock out. This book shows kids how to unleash their inner rock star, even if they don’t have “an awesome sound system with cordless microphones.” They can sing into their fists, perfect their rock star struts and strum an air guitar while they close their eyes and “Make the kind of faces you make when your stomach really hurts.” Even if they can’t carry a tune, it doesn’t matter—”Your voice doesn’t need to be perfect,” Vernick writes, “Just really loud.”

Sweethearts of Rhythm

Sweethearts of Rhythm

Hardcover $22.99

Sweethearts of Rhythm

By Marilyn Nelson
Illustrator Jerry Pinkney

Hardcover $22.99

Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World, by Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney
Let’s face it—most of the classical musicians your kids will learn about in school, and many of the musicians of all kinds they will see celebrated, are men. Here’s an inspiring story to show girls that women can be bandleaders too. This book, illustrated with vibrant watercolors and collage, tells the story in verse of the Sweethearts of Rhythm, who formed during the 1940s. They played ballrooms throughout the country, despite Jim Crow laws that discriminated against them, and despite the perception that bands were for boys. The poet Marilyn Nelson tells this story from the perspectives of the women’s instruments.

Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World, by Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney
Let’s face it—most of the classical musicians your kids will learn about in school, and many of the musicians of all kinds they will see celebrated, are men. Here’s an inspiring story to show girls that women can be bandleaders too. This book, illustrated with vibrant watercolors and collage, tells the story in verse of the Sweethearts of Rhythm, who formed during the 1940s. They played ballrooms throughout the country, despite Jim Crow laws that discriminated against them, and despite the perception that bands were for boys. The poet Marilyn Nelson tells this story from the perspectives of the women’s instruments.

What books have inspired your young music-lovers?