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Fiction

This list includes fictional books about music and young people. The volumes are generally available at public libraries and through major booksellers. They are appropriate for children from ages 4 through 12th grade.

Young Readers

Costanza, Stephen. Mozart Finds a Melody. New York, Henry Holt and Company: 2004. 31 p.
Mozart is desperate. He has to compose a new piano concerto by Saturday and he's out of ideas. Then his pet starling chirps melody that he things is just perfect and a walk around the city of Vienna produces more ideas that he uses to create his Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major.

McCully, Emily. The Orphan Singer. New York, Scholastic Press: 2001. 27 p.
Everyone knew that the best place to get a music education in Venice was at the orphanage. The Dolcis were very sad to leave their baby daughter there, but knew it was the best thing for her. Over the years the training she receives allows her to become an important member of the chorus and a beautiful singer. The family still keeps in touch, however, and visit Catarina every week. NOTE: This story is based on fact. The Ospedale della Pieta, where Antonio Vivaldi was the music teacher for many years, was a wonderful music conservatory for orphaned and abandoned girls in 18th century Venice.

Demas, Corinne. Nina's Waltz. New York, Orchard Books: 2000. 29 p.
Nina's father has written a fiddle tune and, with his daughter, goes to a fiddle competition to see if it can win a prize. When he is injured, Nina steps in and performs the piece instead. The piece is "a tune that would get inside you without you realizing it - the kind of tune you'd find yourself humming when you walked along a country road on a star-filled night."

Hopkinson, Deborah. A Band of Angels. New York, Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing Division: 1999. 29 p.
Based on a true story of the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, this book tells of the formation of a school choir that goes on tour to raise enough funds to keep the college, which was founded in 1871 to educate Afro-American students, operating.

Miller, William. The Piano. New York, Lee and Low Books Inc.: 2000. 27 p.
Tia, a young Afro-American girl, is entranced by the music she hears coming from one of the big houses in town. She takes a job as a maid so she can hear more of it and winds up taking piano lessons from the elderly white woman who lives there. The mutual love of music that these two people share transcends race and age.

McPhail, David. Mole Music. New York, Henry Holt and Company: 1999. 28 p.
When Mole hears a man playing a violin, he knows that he wants to learn to make beautiful music too. He buys an instrument and patiently teaches himself to play it. Since he lives underground, he is unaware of the powerful effect his music has on others.

West, Jim and Marshall Iven. The Dog Who Sang at the Opera. New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.: 2004. 27 p.
Pasha, who is an elegant Russian wolfhound, is delighted when she is selected to play a role in an opera scene at the famous New York Metropolitan Opera House. The singer with whom she shares the stage is not so pleased, however, when Pasha decides to sing along with her! This story is based on a true incident that occurred in 1997 when a dog really did sing along with Renée Fleming on the Met stage.

Cutler, Jane. The Cello of Mr. O. New York, Dutton children's Books: 1999. 19 p.
In a war-torn city it is cold and there is little food. When a rocket destroys the relief truck that brought what few supplies it could, Mr. O, a famous musician, takes his cello into the middle of the square and plays. Through his music, we learn that courage can sustain the soul just as bread sustains the body.

Lithgow, John. The Remarkable Farkle McBride. New York, Simon & Schuster: 2000. 30 p.
Young Farkle McBride is a musical prodigy who can't seem to find the right instrument to play - until he decides to play all of them at once!

Ketcham, Sallie. Bach's Big Adventure. New York, Orchard Books: 1999. 29 p.
Young Johann Sebastian Bach thought he was the best organist in all of Germany and the world, but that we before he heard the famous Jan Adam Reincken play. This charming book describes Bach's journey to hear the master perform.

Curtis, Gavin. The Bat Boy and His Violin. New York, Simon and Schuster: 1998. 26 p.
Reginald would rather practice his violin, but his father, the manager of a baseball team in the Negro National League, assigns him the job of batboy. (This book contains some interesting history about African-Americans and baseball) Reginald is terrible at this task, however, so Papa puts him on the bench where he finds himself playing classical music as the players come up to bat. His music so inspires the team that they nearly win the league's pennant.

Austin, Patricia. The Cat Who Loved Mozart. New York, Holiday house: 2001. 29 p.
How can Jennifer earn the love of a stray cat she has befriended who is named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? By playing the piano for him! In turn, the cat inspires Jennifer, who is preparing for a music competition.

Wilson, Budge. Fiddle for Angus. Toronto, Tundra Books: 2001. 28 p.
Young Angus, who lives in a Cape Breton village near the sea, wants to learn how to play an instrument so he can join his family's small musical group. After considering many possibilities, he decides to learn the fiddle, and works very hard with a local teacher to master its intricacies. His goal is accomplished one evening in June when he joins the others in the family and plays with them in a concert on the beach. This is a good story. For youngsters who are just starting to study music.

Dengler, Marianna. Fiddlin' Sam. Hong Kong, South Sea International Press Ltd.: 1999. 35 p.
Everyone in the Ozark Mountains loved to hear Sam play his old lionhead fiddle as he wandered the back roads, stopping at farms and towns. Sam was getting old, however, and he was looking for someone to take over for him. As his Pa said, "This ain't a gift, Son. It's a loan. You gotta pass the music along." He finds his successor in a most unlikely way.

Fleming, Candace. Gabriella's Song. New York, Athaneum Books for Young Readers: 1997. 29 p.
Gabriella loves to sing, and she makes up a wonderful tune that blended the sounds of her native city, Venice. One can hear "the slap-slap of drying laundry; the flap-flap of pigeon wings; the jing-aling-ling of lire; and the ting-aling-ling of church bells." Giuseppe Del Pietro, a famous composers, hears Gabriella's song and rejoices; it's just the theme he needs for his new symphony! When they hear this work performed in the great Piazza San Marco, music lovers from all over the city agree that this piece is his greatest composition.

King-Smith, Dick. A Mouse Called Wold. New York, Dell Yearling: 1997. 98 p.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse and his family live in the leg of a grand piano in the home of Mrs. Honeybee, who was once a concert pianist. As she plays daily, young "Wolf" listens intently and wishes mightily that he too could perform such wonderful music. One day, to his amazement, he finds that he can sing! When Mrs. Honeybee discovers this as well, the two become improbable friends as she teaches him new tunes and Wolf ultimately composes his very own work.

Carter, Donna Renee. Music in the Family. Chicago, Lindsay Publishing, Inc.: 1995. 31 p.
Oliver is an African-American whose family loves music and has its own band. When the group decides to enter a families-only musical competition Oliver wants to join in, but he is told that he is not yet ready to do so. However, he works very hard with a teacher and learns the music anyway. He also learns what it means to play not just the notes but the music. Then, at the event itself his father is injured and Oliver steps in to fill the gap with great results; the family wins first prize!

Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman. Nate the Great and the Musical Note. New York, Coward-McCann Inc.: 1990. 42 p.
Nate's friend, Pip, has received a mysterious musical note from Rosamond, his piano teacher. What can it mean? Nate must sift through several musical clues for the answer - and find it by four o'clock!

Grades 2-5

Celenza, Anna Harwell. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2005.
This charming book is based on the true story behind the naming of this famous piece of music. Included is a CD of the work. Grades 3+.

Celenza, Anna Harwell. Pictures at an Exhibition. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2003.
Modest Mussorgsky is devastated that his young artist friend, Victor Hartmann, has died. He decides to write a musical memorial to his life and works. Beautifully illustrated by JoAnn E. Kitchell. Included is a CD of the work. Grades 3+.

Cowling, Douglas. Hallelujah Handel. Ontario, Scholastic Press: 2003. 37 p.
Although George Frederick Handel was one of the brightest musical stars of 18th century London, he found time to help orphaned children who lived on the streets. This is a tale of one such young boy who cannot speak but can sing like an angel.

Mills, Claudia. Gus and Grandpa and the Piano Lesson. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2004. 48 p. An Easy Reader book.
Gus has a hard time with his piano lessons until Grandpa shows him how to get the music into his fingers. After that, he doesn't want to stop playing.

Shlasko, Robert. Molly and the Sword. New York, Jane & Street Publishers, Inc.: 1996. 29 p.
When Molly was a very young girl she showed great courage in a time of war, which was recognized by the leader of the enemy forces. Later, she became a famous violinist. Imagine her surprise when, after she is invited to play in the most famous concert hall in the world, she meets this prince once again.

Bonners, Susan. Making Music. New York, Farrar, Straus Girard: 2002. 85 p.
Annie has just moved to a new town with her mother and baby brother. She misses her favorite Uncle, Johnny, who taught her about music. However, in the evenings Annie can hear a piano being played in the neighborhood. She becomes friends with the elderly Mrs. Bergstrom, a retired piano teacher. Annie's mother can't afford lessons, but Mrs. Bergstrom finds a way and Annie learns about music after all.

Willner-Pardo, Gina. Spider Storch's Music Mess. Morton Grove, IL, Albert Whitman and Co: 1998. 68 p.
Spider is in third grade and has to choose an instrument to play in the Music for Beginners class. As he is one of the last to pick, he is forced to select the flute. When his classmates make fun of him for playing a "sissy" instrument, Spider is determined to find a way to be dismissed from the class. However, he discovers that playing "Home on the Range" gives him goosebumps, so he re-thinks his decision and is able to play in the Junior Band Concert after all.

Givens, Steven J. The Violin Lesson and the Cross Street Band. New Canaan, CT, New Canaan Publishing Co: 2003. 41 p.
Young Jonathan is tired of hearing his neighbors argue with each other. Everyone seems to be unhappy! Then his Great-Grandfather tells him a story of a magical violin that once broke through a wall of hatred. When Jonathan begins playing his instrument in the middle of Cross Street, he finds that music has the power to change people's lives.

Grades 4-7

Currie, Susan. Basket of Beethoven. Markham, Ontario, Fitzhenry & Whiteside: 2001. 123 p.
Sam can make up sound patterns in his head, but it is not until he hears the new girl in school, Helen, play the piano that he understands what music is all about. Determined to learn to play himself but without money - he lives in the projects - Sam strikes a bargain with the haughty Helen; he will keep the local bullies away from her in exchange for piano lessons. Soon, Sam is practicing secretly but hard on the keyboard he has made from wood scraps. When the school talent show comes around, he finally makes his debut in front his mother as well as his schoolmates.

Arkin, Alan. Cassie Loves Beethoven. New York, Hyperion Books for Children: 2000. 188 p.
This is an absolutely delightful story about a cow on Cape Breton Island. Cassie refuses to give milk. To encourage her, David and Hallie play classical music in her stall, in particular Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Suddenly, Cassie is talking and insisting on learning all about Beethoven. Her antics as she tries to attend a local concert are hilarious and her efforts to learn to play the piano touching. The reader will learn what it means to practice hard to achieve one's goal.

Doucet, Sharon Arms. Fiddle Fever. New York, Clarion Books: 2000. 160 p.
Felix, a young Cajun boy who is 14 years old in 1914, wants more than anything else in the world to learn to play the fiddle like his 'Nonc Adolphe. His mother objects strongly, however, so Felix must make this happen all by himself. He builds an instrument out of a cigar box and carved pieces of wood, then sets about learning to play it. Despite some setbacks along the way, Felix finally achieves his dream.

Warner, Gertrude. The Mystery of the Stolen Music. Norton Grove, IL, Albert Whitman and Co.: 1995. 118 p.
The boxcar children now live with their grandfather and an orchestra is coming to town. The children are excited to hear the orchestra play, to meet the musicians and to learn how to make their own instruments. The orchestra is also displaying a very valuable old piece of music. When it mysteriously disappears, it is up to the boxcar children to find it.

Williams, L.E. Rose Faces the Music. Portland, ME, Magic Attic Press: 1997. 72p.
Rose takes part in a special adventure when she visits the magic attic in her neighbor's house. She becomes part of an all-girl jazz band that is on its way to play for the President of the United States at his inauguration. An officious press secretary tries to sideline its appearance when he sees how young the members of the group are, but Rose finds a way to save the day. When the President himself applauds her solo, she knows complete happiness. This book is part of the Magic Attic Club series.

Warfel, Diantha. The Violin Case Case. New York, E.P. Dutton: 1978. 151 p.
Bax (short for Sebastian as he was named after Johann Sebastian Bach) is a violinist. Although school is over for the summer, he decides to audition for the local community orchestra. His aunt, visiting from abroad, insists that he use the violin she has just purchased in Germany. Something's afoot, however, as various characters try to get their hands on the instrument. Bax, with the help of his friends Kip and Susan, eventually solves the mystery of why this violin and its case are so important.

Namioka, Lensey. Yang the Eldest and His Odd Jobs. Little Brown and Company, Boston, New York, London: 2000. 119p.
Yang and his family, Chinese immigrants who live in Seattle, are all very musical (except for Fourth Brother!), but Yang is the most talented of all. When he finds his violin needs replacement, he spends the summer working hard to earn money to buy a new instrument. Unfortunately, in so doing he loses his way musically. His brothers and sisters help him to regain his passion. This book is part of a series that includes Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear, Yang the Second and her Secret Admirers and Yang the Third and Her Impossible Family. They are all excellent, relating stories of the Yang children's musical activities.

Fenner, Carol. Yolanda's Genius. New York, Margaret K. McElderry Books: 1995. 208 p.
Yolanda, an 11-year-old African-American, has moved from Chicago to a suburb with her mother and her young brother, Andrew. Andrew has a special gift; he can make his harmonica imitate almost any sound or emotion. He plays the bacon sizzling, his sister's song, the sounds of the local boys who ride their skateboards. Yolanda is convinced that he is a genius, and finds a way to bring her brother's talent to the attention of the people who count at the famous blues festival in town. Her street smarts, intelligence and physical size stand her in good stead as she fights for recognition for Andrew, taking on all comers.

Grades 5-8

Barne, Kitty. Barbie. Boston, Little Brown and Company: 1969. 257p.
This is a wonderful story set in England in the middle of the 20th century. Barbie, Laurel's cousin, comes to stay for a year while her mother recovers from an illness and her father travels. She is a true musician, and home and school are forced to adapt to her needs as Barbie struggles to keep up with her violin studies on her own. She is desperate to find a real teacher; though music lovers of all kinds befriend her, they are not what Barbie needs, and the great Vascoletti has refused to take her as a student. Then, when everyone else has failed, Laurel's young brother, Simon, saves the day.

Wilson, Nancy Nope. Becoming Felix. New York, Farrar Straus Giroux: 1996. 181 p.
JJ lives on a dairy farm and is devoted to the animals he helps tend. However, he also loves to play the clarinet that belonged to his grandfather. As work at home and the demands of his school jazz band vie against one another, JJ must decide where music fits into his life. His relationship with his friend, Steven, who plays the drums as well as JJ does the clarinet, is also in jeopardy. It is a hard year all around, especially when the milk cows on the farm have to be sold to make ends meet. However, when Steven and JJ become the stars at a special band bash, it becomes apparent that music will always be part of JJ's life.

O'Connor, Barbara. Beethoven in Paradise. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1997. 152 p.
Twelve-year-old Martin has a rare talent for music, but his father thinks studying music is a waste of time and only for sissies. Nothing Martin ever has or does is good enough for his dad, who wants him to play baseball. He finds support for his music, however, in unlikely alliances with an elderly neighbor, Wylene, his grandmother, Hazeline and a new girl in town. When a local pawnshop displays a violin in its window, Martin doesn't rest until it becomes his. By teaching himself to play, he demonstrates his unusual musical abilities, but his father cruelly ends his study. The descriptions of the father's emotional abuse can make this book difficult to read, but the determination to follow his dream that Martin demonstrates is heart-warming and inspiring.

MacLachlan, Patricia. The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt. New York, Harper and Row: 1998. 136 p.
This is a coming of age story about a young cellist, Minna, who needs to learn how to accept her eccentric family for what it is. Her brother, his friend Emily, and Minna's new friend, Lucas, help her to do this. Meanwhile, her string quartet is preparing for a special competition. Will Minna find her vibrato in time?

Ingold, Jeanette. Mountain Solo. Orlando, FL, Harcourt Books: 2003. 300 p.
Tess started playing the violin when she was three, thanks to a pushy mother. Identified as a wunderkind, she and her mother now live in New York so Tess can pursue her studies with the very best teachers. Now she's sixteen and has just failed in her first major concert appearance. Ashamed, embarrassed and confused, Tess flees New York for her native Missoula, Minnesota and her Dad. While there, she helps her stepmother hunt for a lost homestead of a pioneer who was himself a musician, finds out what music really means to her and makes the decisions necessary to allow her to resume her studies and yet remain true to herself.

Wolff, Virginia E. The Mozart Season. New York, Holt: 1999. 256 p.
This book tells the story of Allegra Shapiro, a 12-year-old violinist who finds that she has been chosen to participate in a musical competition. Allegra is the youngest competitor, and the story revolves about her efforts to prepare for this challenge. The book also deals with her relationship with her teacher, her parents (both of whom are professional musicians) and others in the community. Readers will also relate to her struggles for excellence and independence.

Dahlberg, Maureen. Play to the Angel. New York, Farrar, Straus, Girard: 2000.
Set in Vienna in 1938, in the shadow of an increasingly dangerous Nazi Germany, 12-year-old Greta pursues her dream of becoming a concert pianist like her dead brother, Kurt, despite the fact that her mother doesn't want her to study music. She befriends an elderly gentleman in her apartment building who, as it turns out, knows all there is to know about teaching piano.

Garrison, Jenny and Nilson Keillor. Sandy Bottom Orchestra. New York, Hyperion Books for Children: 1996.
14-year-old Rachel Green would like to spend her summer traveling, but instead she is forced to stay at home in pokey old Sandy Bottom. Fortunately, there is a big Dairy Days Festival planned which will include a big concert, and she is chosen to join the orchestra. Rachel also has her hands filled dealing with her social activist and demanding mother and with the trials of being a teenager. Fortunately, participating in the orchestra project means she can see more of Scott, an attractive young cellist, which helps to offset the loss of her best friend, Carol. This book was written by Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame and his musician wife, Nilsson. Their soft jibes at heartland sentiments are amusing, but the real story is about Rachel and her music.

 

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