A List of Children's Literature and Music Supporting Music Listening and Understanding

Compiled Oct. 16, 2006, by Kit Eakle

The Story of Classical Music, by Darren Henley, narrated by Marin Alsop, pub. Naxos Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (August 17, 2004) ISBN: 9626343109

Publisher's Summary: The lives and music of the great composers of classical music unfold in this entertaining account, introduced by the conductor and musical personality Marin Alsop. In 1200 years, classical music grew from the chanting of medieval monks through the symphonies of Beethoven and the grand operas of Wagner to the huge orchestral sound-world of the 21st century, with its electronics and its film music. In her easy-going style, Marin Alsop paints vivid portraits of over 90 composers, each one illustrated with some of his, or her, most famous music.

Getting to Know the World’s Great Composers” Series, by Mike Venezia

There are volumes on Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Gershwin, Ellington (ISBN 0516445405), Sousa, Stravinsky (ISBN: 0516260766); Bernstein, Copland, Beatles, Handel (ISBN: 0516445391) all available from Children's Press (CT)

A cartoony, “fun” introduction to all these composers and their works, but with minimal substantive detail.


MOZART, SCHUBERT, TCHAIKOVSKY, BEETHOVEN, BACH, AND BRAHMS “Famous Children” series.  by Ann Rachlin and Susan Hellard very sketchy and rather boring. (Paperback - April 2, 2002)

A ubiquitous series I DON’T recommend.


Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew, by Anne Siberell, Frederica von Stade, pub. Oxford University Press, USA (January 3, 2002), ISBN: 0195139666

A look behind the scenes from professionals who know all about it.  A delightful book for older readers.


Classical Kids: Hallelujah Handel, Beethoven Lives UPSTAIRS, MR. BACH COMES TO CAL, VIVALDI’s Ring of Mystery, THE MAGIC FLUTE, Tchaikovsky Discovers  America, etc., by Susan Hammond, pub. Classical Kids Children's Book Store Distribution; Audio CD edition (July 2000), ISBN: 1896449182 cassette version (November 1991) ISBN: 1895404495

The classic Canadian classical series. I still think the audio versions are the best, though there are books and DVDs of many of these classics now available.


Bach's Big Adventure by Sallie Ketcham, Timothy Bush (Illustrator), pub. Orchard Books (NY) (March 1999), ISBN: 0531301400

A retelling of how Bach walked 100 miles to hear the great organist, Buxtehude.


Bach's Goldberg Variations, by Anna Harwell Celenza, Joann E. Kitchel (Illustrator), pub Charlesbridge Publishing; Book & CD edition (January 1, 2005) ISBN: 1570915105

Another in this series on composers and compositions by Celenza, this one tells the story of Bach and how he came to write his Goldberg Variations. Rather a long and difficult work to introduce Bach to kids, though the story is of interest


Sebastian: A Book about Bach, by Jeanette Winter , pub.  Silver Whistle; 1st ed edition (March 1, 1999), ISBN: 015200629X

“Winter combines a spare text and colorful illustrations to capture her subject's personality. She presents the outlines of the composer's youth, family, marriage, and work. The author clearly relates how music dominated Bach's life as compositions filled his head and he worked feverishly to get them down on paper. She also succeeds at conveying the complexity of composition: ‘He heard one melody for the violin, one for the trumpet, one for the flute, and one for the oboe.’ ” …“Although few details of the composer's life are included, readers will sense his determination to succeed. Most of all, they will understand the importance of his music to the world.”

Jane Marino, Scarsdale Public Library, NY

Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


The Other Mozart: The Life of the Chevalier Saint-George, by Hugh Brewster , pub. Abrams Books for Young Readers (December 1, 2006), ISBN-10: 0810957205 - ASIN: B0042P59AK

“Grade 4–8—This swashbuckling biography of a multitalented musician in Revolutionary France will leave readers wondering why they'd never heard of the man. Born into slavery in Haiti, Saint-George distinguished himself in France as a composer, violinist, swordsman, colonel, prisoner, diplomat—and even an accomplished ice skater. Brewster relies heavily on the only English-language biography of Saint-George to reconstruct his unusual life, but also recognizes more recent scholarship in his author's note and includes a detailed list of recommended resources in a variety of formats. Period reproductions and drawings appear throughout, but at the heart of the book is Velasquez's original artwork. His moody paintings capture Saint-George raising his baton to cue the orchestra or drawing back his sword to parry a blow. The book features mini-biographies of other musicians and detailed time lines of the French Revolution and the life of Marie Antoinette, making it the perfect complement to units on the French and American Revolutions. The engaging narrative supplies delicious detail about life in Europe in the late 1700s, and the elegant design makes it the kind of picture book that even high school students will pick up.—Emily R. Brown, Providence Public Library, RI




Handel, Who Knew What He Liked, by M. T. Anderson, pub. Candlewick; 1st ed edition (October 1, 2001), ISBN: 0763610461

A nicely illustrated life of the great composer. The stories of his writing the Water Music and the Royal Fireworks music are particularly of interest.

Hallelujah Handel by Douglas Cowling, Jason Walker (Illustrator), pub.Scholastic Press; 1 Amer ed edition (October 1, 2003), ISBN: 0439058503

The story tells of Handel’s concern for the homeless children of London, and how that concern led to his composing of the Messiah.

The Farewell Symphony, by Anna Harwell Celenza, Joseph Haydn, Joann E. Kitchel (Illustrator), Charlesbridge Publishing; Book & CD edition (July 2000), ISBN: 1570914060

This is, I believe, the first book in this series on composers and compositions by Celenza. It is still my favorite.


Mozart Finds a Melody, by Stephen Costanza, pub. Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (August 12, 2004),ISBN: 0805066276

A totally fictional account of the writing of Mozart’s Piano Concerto #17, based on the true story that Mozart had a canary who learned themes to his music. Though completely fictionalized, it delightfully evokes the Vienna of Mozart’s time.

Play, Mozart, Play! by Peter Sis (May 1, 2006), Greenwillow Press (May 2, 2006), ISBN: 0061121819

This is a delightful new entry from this MacArthur fellow illustrator. While it is very short on historical content, it is a wonderful artist’s expression of  what it must have been like to be a prodigy with a father like Leopold Mozart!

The Heroic Symphony, by Anna Harwell Celenza, Joann E. Kitchel (Illustrator) Charlesbridge Publishing;  ISBN: 1570915091

Here is yet another book in this series on composers and compositions by Celenza. This one tells the story of Beethoven and his disappointment in Napoleon becoming an autocrat, and how that changed his title for his Symphony, “Eroica.”


Pictures at an Exhibition, by Anna Harwell Celenza, Joann E. Kitchel (Illustrator), pub. Charlesbridge Publishing; Book & CD edition (February 2003), ISBN: 1570914923

Another book in this series on composers and compositions by Celenza. A good way to introduce Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”


Two Scarlet Songbirds: A Story of Anton Dvorak (Hardcover)

by Carole Lexa Schaefer, Elizabeth Rosen (Illustrator), pub. Naxos Audiobooks,

ISBN: 9626343109 

A wonderful book telling of Dvoráks famous visit to Spillville Iowa in the summer of 1893, and the inspiration for his “American” String Quartet. A great introduction to the third movement of this work, which is based on the song of the scarlet tananger, a bird Dvorak heard for the first time in.


What Charlie Heard, by Mordecai Gerstein, pub. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (March 18, 2002), ISBN: 0374382921

A delightful biography of the idiosyncratic American composer, Charles Ives. A great introduction to his “Country March”


Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, by Anna Harwell Celenza, Joann E. Kitchel (Illustrator), pub. Charlesbridge Publishing; Book & CD edition (June 1, 2006), ISBN: 1570915563

This is the most recent in this series on composers and compositions by Celenza I have yet to see the whole book, but the preview looks great.


Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Caldecott Honor Book), by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, pub. Jump At The Sun; 1st ed edition (April 28, 1998), ISBN: 0786801786

This is a fine introduction to the “Duke” and his band, and a Caldecott Award winner!


Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, pub. Jump At The Sun; 1st edition (April 1, 2002), ISBN: 0786805684

A companion piece and follow-up to the book on Duke Ellington above.


Music For The End Of Time by Jennifer Bryant and Beth Peck, pub.  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers  (September 15, 2005), ISBN: 0802852297

A moving account of the French composer, Olivier Messiaen, his imprisonment in a Nazi war camp, and the music he wrote there, the “Quartet for the End of Time.”

The Strange Mr. Satie, by M.T. Anderson, Petra Mathers (Illustrator), pub.  Viking Juvenile (September 15, 2003), ISBN: 0670036374

A delightfully quirky book about a delightfully quirky man and composer!

Nicky The Jazz Cat (Hardcover), by Carol Friedman, pub. PowerHouse Books (April 2005), ISBN: 1576872483

This is a delightful new book by a famous photographer, Carol Friedman, who has photographed many famous musicians with her cat, Nicky. Nicky gets around in these great photographs. They are accompanied by several CDs (see Nicky’s Jazz for Kids in the CD section below.)


CDs for listening to Jazz/rock:

For the Kids,  Audio CD (rock/pop): Nettwerk Records, ASIN: B00006L7QX (November 5, 2002) cuts are:

1. Mahna Mahna- Cake , 2. La La La La Lemon - Barenaked Ladies, 3. The Rainbow Connection - Sarah McLachlan, 4. I've Got To Be Clean – Guster,

5. Wonderwheel - Dan Zanes, 6. Have a Little Fun - Glen Phillips, 7. The Hoppity Song - Five For Fighting, 8. My Flying Saucer - Billy Bragg & Wilco, 9. It's All Right To Cry - Darius Rucker, 10. Sing – Ivy, 11. Bright Eyes - Remy Zero, 12. Willie The King - Dan Wilson, 13. Snow Day – Bleu, 14. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" - Chantal/Raine Maida, 15. Good Night Children Everywhere - Sixpence None The Richer, 16. Bend Down The Branches - Tom Waits


Jazz for Kids: Sing, Clap, Wiggle and Shake, Audio CD (June 22, 2004), pub Verve, ASIN: B0001KAA86

1. Old McDonald - Ella Fitzgerald, 2. Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens - Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five, 3. Yes, We Have No Bananas - Louis Prima, 4. Chicken Rhythm - Slim Gaillard,  5. Mumbles - Oscar Peterson featuring Clark Terry, 6. Rag Mop - Lionel Hamptonm, 7. The Muffin Man - Ella Fitzgerald, 8. When The Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bobbin' Along - Carmen McRae, 9. Potato Chips - Slim Gaillard and His Baker's Dozen,10. Doop-Doo-De-Doop (A Doodlin' Song) - Blossom Dearie,11. What A Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong


Nicky's Jazz for Kids, Label: Dominick, ASIN: B0000DI4TB - A great set of real jazzers doing some great kids music (see Nicky the Jazz Cat)

1. Key-Mo Ky-Mo (The Magic Song) - The King Cole Trio, 2. Everybody Eats When They Come to My House - Cab Calloway, 3. A Tisket, A Tasket - Ella Fitzgerald, 4. Three Blind Mice - The King Cole Trio, 5. The Music Goes 'Round and Around - Louis Prima,  6. The Jungle King (You Ain't Done a Doggone Thing) – Cab Calloway, 7. Ten Feet Off The Ground - Louis Armstrong, 8. All That Meat And No Potatoes - Fats Waller, 9. Jeepers Creepers - Count Basie & Tony Bennett, 10. The Umbrella Man - Dizzy Gillespie, 11. Chew-Chew-Chew (Chew Your Bubblegum) - Ella Fitzgerald,  12. Your Feet's Too Big - Fats Waller,  13. A Doodlin' Song - Peggy Lee,

MusicKit website will constantly update this document at http://www.musickit.com/listentothemusic

Let us know about books you would like to see. Send items to listento@musickit.com.



Opening Night: Le Mozart Noir DVD 
pub. CBC Product ID: ETART00100

(CBC promo) This award-winning film uncloaks the mystery of Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a black musician from the 18th century whose work has fallen into neglect due to the prejudices of history. Le Mozart Noir revives the story of Saint-Georges’ life as a renowned athlete, a revolutionary, a man about Paris, but above all, as an extraordinary composer and performer. His music is rich, baroque, complex, and crafted by a brilliant violinist. As interpreted by Jeanne Lamon and the Tafelmusik Orchestra, this music will once again be heard, allowing it to live on.

Let’s hope so! This is a VERY good one. Why have we never heard of this guy? We’ll find out!

Tafelmusik Orchestra performances of eight St-Georges works, in 5.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, accompany this spectacular production as a bonus audio feature.


MusicKit website will constantly update this document at http://www.musickit.com/listentothemusic

Let us know about books you would like to see. Send items to listento@musickit.com.