If I asked you to go to the bookstore and find picture books on music, or musicians, or instruments, you would come back with a stack. And not just a small stack. A mountain. A tall, teetering, brightly colored tower of books celebrating music in all its forms.
Now, how about finding novels? Specifically, novels for children in the middle grade range, ages 9-12?
Tough, isn’t it? Ironically, despite the fact that this is the age when many children pick up an instrument for the first time, it isn’t always easy to find books that also address this interest. But never fear, they are out there! To get you started, here are five middle grade novels for the musical soul.
The Way to Stay in Destiny, by Augusta Scattergood
Theo Thomas has two passions: baseball and piano. Ripped from his life on his grandparents’ farm, and plunked down in Destiny, Florida with his cantankerous Vietnam vet uncle, Theo’s not sure how he’s going to survive past the sixth grade. But then there’s Miss Sister and her piano, and Anabel and her Hank Aaron project, and suddenly Destiny might not be so bad after all. As long as his uncle doesn’t find out what he’s up to.
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban
Zoe Elias has a mother who is never home and a father who refuses to leave home. Ever. The odds are stacked against her. But that doesn’t stop her from dreaming of playing the piano at Carnegie Hall. Fortunately for Zoe, her father is listening. Unfortunately, he’s easily distracted and that’s how Zoe ends up the proud new owner of the Perfectone D-60 organ. Now not only is she stuck playing the organ, but suddenly there’s the Perfect-O-Rama Annual Organ Competition. And the strange boy Wheeler Diggs following her home from school everyday. Life for Zoe Elias is about as far from perfect as it can gets. She thinks.
Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
Bud Caldwell has been an orphan since he was six. After 4 years of foster homes and orphanages, Bud has had enough. He hops a train from Flint, Michigan to Grand Rapids. Armed with just an old flyer, his suitcase, and Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself, he plans to find his father, the great jazz musician Herman Calloway and his band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression. But once in Grand Rapids, Bud begins to untangle the lies and secrets of his family history, all while falling headlong into the magical world of jazz. Like the music itself, Bud learns the truth is often complicated, both painful and joyful.
Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace, by Nan Marino
11-year-old Elvis Ruby is headed straight for the top, via the reality show “Tween Star.” But on the big night, with millions of people watching, something goes horribly wrong. Actually, everything goes horribly wrong. Now Elvis has changed his appearance (and his trademark hair) in order to hide out from the paparazzi and flip pancakes at his aunt and uncle’s Piney Pete’s Pancake Palace. But the town oddball Cecelia threatens to blow his cover. And Cecelia has her own agenda, centered around a family legend, and the strange music coming from the woods. Sometimes real life is even stranger than what you see on TV.
The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White
Yes, it’s an older title. But some books become classics for a reason. Reading a bit like The Ugly Duckling for older readers, The Trumpet of the Swan is the story of a mute trumpeter swan named Louis. More than anything, Louis wants to communicate with the other trumpeter swans, most especially with the beautiful Serena. With the help of 11-year-old Sam Beaver, Louis first learns to read and write. But the other swans have no idea what his written words mean. In an act of paternal desperation, Louis’ father steals a brass trumpet for his son. Despite Louis’ guilt over the stolen instrument, this single act sets forth a series of events that shows Louis he can be more than he ever imagined. And more than anyone else imagined he’d be.
What musical books for young readers do you love?