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Classics for Kids
Books & Videos

Nonfiction

This list represents only a fraction of the wonderful books now available for children that relate to classical music. We encourage you to visit your public library and local bookstores to discover other such great volumes.

The Classics for Kids® website contains two other book lists. One describes fictional books that connect children and music; the other includes names of such works that are appropriate for adults.

About Music

Roth, Susan L. If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
For many years, Guido d'Arezzo, a young man from Tuscany, has imagined that a system for writing music down can be found. He eventually develops a system of lines and spaces that is still used today. The cut paper illustrations are excellent. Ages 8-12.

Musicians

Nathan, Amy. Meet the Musicians: From Prodigies (or not) to Pros. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 2007.
This collection of interviews with 15 musicians of the New York Philharmonic presents an in-depth look at what it takes to become a professional musician. The book discusses how these musicians chose their instruments and became good enough to join this world-renowned orchestra. Readers will also gain insight into the workings of various instruments, practice tips, and what to look for during a performance. Grades 5-8.

Composers

Anderson, M. T. Strange Mr. Satie. New York: Viking, 2003.
Picture book treatment introduces the life of the French composer, Erik Satie, who spent his entire career challenging established conventions in music. Grades K-3.

Bredeson, Carmen. Ten Great American Composers. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2002.
Short biographies of John Philip Sousa, Scott Joplin, Charles Ives, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass, and Ellen Zwilich include a few black and white illustrations, photographs and web sites for further research. Grades 6-12.

Carew-Miller, Anna. Beethoven: Great Composer. Broomall, PA: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.
Highly illustrated text gives young readers a glimpse into the life of Beethoven. Grades 3-6.

Celenza, Anna Harwell. The Farewell Symphony. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2000.
A charming story of how Franz Josef Haydn came to write his Farewell Symphony. Included is a CD of the work. Grades 3+.

Celenza, Anna Harwell. The Heroic Symphony. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2004.
Not only a nicely illustrated beginning biography of Beethoven, but the book also includes a CD of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica"). Grades 3+.

Cook, Diane. Mozart: World-Famous Composer. Broomall, PA: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.
Highly illustrated text gives young readers a glimpse into the life of Mozart. Grades 3-6.

Gerstein, Mordicai. What Charlie Heard. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.
American composer Charles Ives wrote music that expressed all the sounds he heard in the world, but his music was not well received during his lifetime. Grades K-3.

Kallen, Stuart. Great Composers. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2000.
Includes readable and informative biographies that are 15 pages or so in length of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Gershwin and Andrew Lloyd Weber. Young adult.

Krull, Kathleen. Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1993.
Short, informal biographies of several composers, including Mozart, Brahms, Scott Joplin, Clara Schumann, George Gershwin Sergei Prokofiev, Verdi, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. Ages 9-12.

Lazo, Caroline Evensen. Leonard Bernstein: In Love With Music. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 2003.
A biography of the 20th century American composer that includes such chapter headings as "Russian Roots," "Hits and Misses," and "Triumphs and Tragedies." Grades 6-12.

McDonough, Yona Zeldis. Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 2003.
Explores the life and work of this very famous prolific 18th century Austrian composer. Grades 3-7.

Rachlin, Ann. Famous Children Series. Chicago: Children's Press, 1992-1994.
Bach
Beethoven
Brahms
Chopin
Handel
Haydn
Mozart
Schubert
Schumann
Tchaikovsky

For younger readers, the books in this series tell in story fashion of the early lives of several famous composers. Ages 4-8.

Reef, Catherine. Masters of Music Series. Greensbor, NC: Morgan Reynolds Publishing.
William Grant Still, 2003.
George Gershwin, 2000.
Two books trace the lives of two 20th century composers, one African-American, one American-Jewish. Grades 6-9.

Reich, Susanna. Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso. New York: Clarion Books, 1999.
Describes the life of the German pianist and composer who made her professional debut at age nine and who devoted her life to music and to her family. Grades 5-8.

Sabir, C. Ogbu. Scott Joplin: The King of Ragtime. Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, 2001.
Examines the life and accomplishments of the well-known ragtime pianist and composer who wrote over 500 pieces of music, including a ballet and two operas. Grades 3-6.

Thompson, Wendy. Composer's World Series. New York: Viking, 1990-1993.
Joseph Haydn
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Franz Schubert
Claude Debussy
Ludwig van Beethoven
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Fairly sophisticated biographies that include excellent reproductions of paintings and etchings depicting the composers, their contemporaries and their surroundings plus some musical excerpts. Ms. Thompson has also written several other composer biographies that are not part of this series. Ages 12 and up.

Venezia, Mike. Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers Series. Chanhassen, MN: Children's Press, 1994-1999.
Frederic Chopin
Igor Stravinsky
Johann Sebastian Bach
Leonard Bernstein
Ludwig van Beethoven
Peter Tchaikovsky

Biographies for younger readers use cartoon illustration, photographs, and paintings along with brief text to describe the life and works of renowned composers. Grades 3-5.

Vernon, Roland. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers: 2001.
Introducing Bach
Introducing Beethoven
Introducing Chopin
Introducing Gershwin
Introducing Mozart
Introducing Stravinsky
Introducing Verdi
Introducing Vivaldi

The volumes in this series of biographies give good overviews of the lives of several famous composers. Included are lots of drawings, photographs and interesting art plus sidebars that give additional details on people, historical events, and artistic movements mentioned in the text. Grades 5-8.

Winter, Jeanette. Sebastian: A Book about Bach. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. 1999.
Picture book account of how Johann Sebastian Bach survived the sorrows of his childhood and composed the music the world has come to love. Grades K-3.

Instruments

Ardley, Neil. Music. New York: Knopf, 1989.
A comprehensive book about music and sound with excellent photographs. Grades 4-7.

Guy, Suzanne. The Music Box: The Story of Cristofori Bartolomeo. Brunswick, ME: Brunswick Publishing Co., 1998. 32 p.
This book tells the story of Bartolomeo Cristofori, a 17th-century Italian harpsichord maker and musician who invented the piano.
Ages 4-8.

Music Makers. Mankato, MN: The Child’s World, Inc.
Reid, Elizabeth. Woodwind instruments
Sharth, Sharon. Saxophones
Stevens, Kathryn. Cellos
Temple, Bob. Trombones.
Temple, Bob. Tubas.
Simple text and full-page photographs provide basic information on a variety of musical instruments.
Grades 2-4

Orchestral Works

Lithgow, John. Carnival of the Animals. Simon and Schuster, 2004.
John Lithgow has created a rhyming story to tie the sections of Camille Saint-Saens' work, Carnival of the Animals, together. He is also the narrator on the accompanying CD. This is a delightful book that is both humorous and touching and makes the music come alive. Young readers.

Schulman, Janet ed. Peter and the Wolf. Knopf, 2004.
This book and CD package introduces children to a classical favorite through a new retelling of Prokofiev's musical fairy tale. The story is accompanied by a CD with music performed by the Cincinnati Pops under the direction of Erich Kunzel and narration by Peter A. Thomas. Also included is helpful information about the cast of characters and the musical instruments that represent them. All ages.

Reference

Blackwood, Alan. The Orchestra. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1993.
Contains information on selected composers, orchestras and music history as well as detailed, illustrated descriptions of orchestral instruments. Grades 5-8.

Hamilton, Meredith. The Story of the Orchestra. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal , 2000.
The book has two sections. The first talks about famous composers and the various periods in musical history; the second describes the instruments of the orchestra. There is an accompanying CD that contains accessible classical musical excerpts. Grades 4-8.

Kallen, Stuart A. The History of Classical Music. Farmington, Il: Lucent Books, 2003.
A readable summary of the history of western music from medieval times. Discuses musical styles, composers and instruments and has informative sidebars. Appropriate for middle school children. Young adult.

Koscielniak, Bruce. The Story of the Incredible Orchestra. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.
A fact-filled, entertaining picture book giving the history of various musical instruments and of the orchestra. The descriptions are short but specific. Illustrated. Ages 4-8.

Marsalis, Wynton. Marsalis on Music. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc,. 1995.
A companion book to Marsalis' video series with the same name. This guide does an excellent job explaining the basics of music theory and form. There are also sections on various composers and musical instruments plus Wynton's own personal guidelines for learning music. A CD with musical examples that illustrate the text is included. Ages 9-12+.

Wilson, Clive ed. The Kingfisher Young People's Book of Music. New York: Kingfisher, 1996.
Includes one-page articles on any number of musical subjects, including the various periods in music history, musical instruments, music of different lands, various music genres and short composer biographies. It is well-illustrated with pictures and photos. Ages 9-12.

Opera/Operetta

Geras, Adele. Random House Book of Opera Stories. New York: Random House, 1998.
Costume designs and illustrations are included in the author's retellings of The Magic Flute, Aida, Carmen, Cunning Little Vixen, Turandot, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and Love for Three Oranges. Grades 3-7.

Price, Leontyne. Aida. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1990.
Illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon combine with text for the retelling of Verdi's opera in which the love of an enslaved Ethiopian princess for an Egyptian general brings tragedy to all involved. Grades K-12.

Shahrukh, Husain. Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera. New York: Barefoot Books, 1999.
Fascinating, dramatic and child-friendly opera tales are illustrated with flamboyant and unique illustrations. Operas included are: The Little Sweep, The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel, The Flying Dutchman, La Cenerentola, Orpheus and Eurydice and Christmas Eve. Grades 3-7.

Siberell, Anne. Bravo! Brava! New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
A comprehensive guide to all aspects of opera, including its history, composers and production. The book also includes some synopses of famous operas. Grades 3-7.

Wheeler, Lisa. Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Seadog and his canine friends brave storms and pirates at sea in an operetta "composed" by the author. The action takes place in a concert hall and is accompanied by an orchestra. An oversize, colorful book with graphic formats.

Ballet

Ganeri, Anita. Young Person's Guide to the Ballet. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1998.
This book includes music on CD from The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. Grades 5-8.

Augstyn, Frank and Shelley Tanaka. Footnotes. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook press, 2001.
A behind-the scenes look at all aspects of ballet and ballet production. Damcers Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Margot Fonteyn are featured. Includes information on Les Sylphides, Giselle, Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lane and Romeo and Juliet. Grade 7 and up

Books for Parents

Machover, Wilma and Marienne Uszler. Sound Choices: Guiding your Child's Musical Experiences. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
An excellent guide for parents who want to guide their child's music training appropriately. Includes sections on choosing an instrument and teacher, age-appropriate music activities for children and ways to deal with gifted children and those with special needs.

Nathan, Amy. The Young Musician's Survival Guide. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
An informative book that addresses the difficulties young people can encounter when studying a musical instrument. Includes hints and comments from teens as well as professional musicians such as Wynton Marsalia, Paula Robison and James Galway.

Cutietta, Robert A. Raising Musical Kids. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
A "road map" for parents who want to develop their child's musical talents.

 

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