15 Books About Music For the Young & Young at Heart

By WFMT |

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Everyone loves a good book, and many authors and illustrators have created books about music for the young and the young at heart. Here are some titles you might want to add to your own library to enjoy along with your favorite music.


Book cover of Bach’s Goldberg Variations1. Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Anna Harwell Celenza with JoAnn E. Kitchel, illustrator
ISBN: 9781570915109

Author Anna Harwell Celenza is a professor at Georgetown University who publishes books for children and scholars. What a better way to introduce young ones to one of J.S. Bach's greatest masterpieces than with this beautifully illustrated book?

Book cover of Beethoven Lives Upstairs 2. Beethoven Lives Upstairs

Barbara Nichol with Scott Cameron, illustrator
ISBN: 9780531071182

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most complex figures in music history. He was celebrated yet misunderstood by his contemporaries. This book tells the touching story of the man behind the music.

Book cover of Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra 3. Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

Andrea Davis Pinkney with Brian Pinkney, illustrator
ISBN: 9780786814206

The winner of 12 Grammy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, “The Duke” is one of the most celebrated musical figures of the 20th century. Introduce your little ones to the music of this influential pianist, composer, and band leader with this book which received a Caldecott Honor.

Book cover of Handel, Who Knew What He Liked 4. Handel, Who Knew What He Liked

M.T. Anderson with Kevin Hawkes, illustrator
ISBN: 9780763665999

This book perfectly captures the charm and wit of George Frideric Handel, who was as particular about his music as he was about everything else. This well-researched but accessible biography is a great way to show young people that composers often led colorful lives.

book cover of The Nutcracker 5. The Nutcracker

E.T.A. Hoffmann with Maurice Sendak, illustrator & Ralph Manheim, translator
ISBN: 9780385348645

There are many, many versions of The Nutcracker. The one illustrated by Maurice Sendak is special, however, because he created the illustrations as he was designing a new production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker for the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

book cover of Peter and the Wolf6. Peter and the Wolf

Sergei Prokofiev with Charles Mikolaycak, illustrator & Maria Carlson, translator
ISBN: 9780140506334

Sergei Prokofiev not only wrote the story to Peter and the Wolf, but he also wrote a beautiful score to accompany the tale as it is narrated aloud. Though there are many versions of the classic tale, the illustrations in this Puffin edition are particularly wonderful.

book cover of The Other Mozart: The Life of the Famous Chevalier de Saint George7. The Other Mozart: The Life of the Famous Chevalier de Saint George

Hugh Brewster with Eric Velasquez, illustrator
ISBN: 9780810957206

Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges had a remarkable life for many reasons. He’s remembered today because he was an exceptional composer of African descent during the time of Mozart. But in his lifetime, he was equally famous as an incredible fencer and military leader who commanded an all-Black regiment during the French Revolution.

Book cover of When Marian Sang8. When Marian Sang

Pam Muñoz Ryan with Brian Selznick (illustrator)
ISBN: 9780439269674

Marian Anderson broke boundaries for musicians of color throughout her life. One of the most notable performances in her career took place outside the Lincoln Memorial after she was denied entrance to Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin. This book is a fantastic way to share her legacy.

Book cover of The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening 9. The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening

Chris Raschka, author & illustrator
ISBN: 9780763658069

How could you not want to read a book that begins:

"Earthlings themselves confused Sun Ra… So he made music. And he traveled with other musicians and singers, calling themselves the Sun Ra Arkestra, playing, singing, and dancing for people all over the planet. Because music, he said, is what holds us all together."

book cover for Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
 10. Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Margarita Engle with Rafael López, illustrator
ISBN: 9781481487405

Venezuelan-born pianist Teresa Carreño broke barriers in the 19th century. In a time when women seldom performed, she was a piano superstar, performing for President Lincoln when she was just 10 years old after immigrating to the US! An inspiring and well-illustrated book for the music lover or prodigy in your life.

Cover for Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo11. Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo

Susan Roth with Angelo Mafucci
ISBN: 9780618465729

For those who think medieval music is inaccessible, think again. This book presents rudimentary music theory through a fascinating history of the man who invented solfège: Guido d’Arezzo.

12. For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart

Elizabeth Rusch with Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson, illustrators
ISBN: 9781582463261

Did you know Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister was a virtuosa in her own right? This book tells the tale of Maria Anna Mozart, whom her famous brother affectionately called Nannerl.

book cover for How to Build an Orchestra13. How to Build an Orchestra

Mary Auld & Elisa Paganelli, with Sir Simon Rattle
ISBN: 978-1526309839

Follow along as a conductor assembles an orchestra instrument-by-instrument. Produced in conjunction with the London Symphony Orchestra and featuring an introduction by music director Sir Simon Rattle, this 2020 title showcases the incredible variety and unity that goes into an orchestra.

Cover for Brundibar by Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner14. Brundibár

Tony Kushner with Maurice Sendak, illustrator
ISBN: 9780786809042

Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak adapted Hans Krása’s children’s opera Brundibár for modern audiences both on the stage and in print. The opera’s tale — about children in search of milk for their ailing mother — is a political allegory about World War II.

Cover for Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd15. Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd

M.T. Anderson with Petra Mathers, illustrator
ISBN: 9780763687755

Quirky kids might identify with Erik Satie, a composer who challenged his listeners then and now with his sardonic humor and idiosyncratic musical style.


This story was first published by Stephen Raskauskas in 2016. It has been updated with additional selections and descriptions.