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The Best Music Picture Books For Children Of All Ages

Updated on July 18, 2011

Best Music Picture Books For Children

Gone are the days when concerts were stuffy affairs, where you had to dress up, pipe down, muffle your coughs, or else earn withering glances from steely-eyed matrons. You had to unwrap your candies with utmost care, minimizing any and all rustling, and above all, you had to leave the children at home. But now, we live in more casual times, and there are many child-friendly concerts where the entire programme consists of music geared towards youngsters, and may even feature an interactive session where they are able to get close to and lay hands upon individual instruments up on stage.

This would be a great opportunity for a parent to determine if their child is ready to start music lessons and, if so, which instrument to start them off with. In these sessions, where the child is able to interact with and hear, up close, the sounds different instruments make, it is rare indeed for a child not to show a preference for a particular instrument and, more often than not, demonstrate an antipathy towards another, often very volubly and in no uncertain terms.

While it is certainly nice to take a youngster to a concert and have them gaze down into the orchestral pit during the interval and see the various musicians and their instruments, it may be even better to introduce them first to the instruments at home on the pages of a book, giving them a point of reference for when they encounter the actual instruments later on.

There are excellent books that introduce children (or an interested adult) to the world of orchestral music, including not just pictures of instruments, but also the various sounds made by the various families of instruments (string, woodwind, brass, percussion) on accompanying CDs, making for a vital source of learning and appreciation.

Some, like Genevieve Helsby's THOSE AMAZING MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS!, and Robert Levine's STORY OF THE ORCHESTRA: Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music, are superb reference books that give a comprehensive and structured account of all the different families of orchestral instruments, and as such, are excellent resources for an older child.

For the younger child, there are many quality picture books (some with accompanying CDs) that can act as a first introduction to music. The best ones are beautifully illustrated and written as stories or rhymes, and can appeal to the youngest pre-school toddler to a child of 7 or 8. In some cases, these books become so well-loved and so well-worn they may have to be replaced before the child is quite grown. There are even some whose appeal extends to adults. Apart from the wonderful classic that's a must-have in the collection of any music lover who also has children in their lives--Bernstein Favorites: Children's Classics--there are many wonderful contemporary picture books of quality and appeal.

M is for Melody: A Musical Alphabet is beautifully drawn and highly educational (without being obviously so); instruments, composers, terms, and even musical styles are covered, often in rhymes. A big favourite among music teachers, parents would do well to get their own copy which will serve as an invaluable primer to all things musical for their child.

Camille Saint-Saëns wrote Carnival of the Animals as a joke for his students, but it has now become one of his most famous works. This picture-book format allows children to follow along while they listen to the CD, an ideal introduction for young children to the world of classical music.

Vividly and colourfully illustrated, cleverly written in evocative and catchy rhyme, Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin is a highly-deserving Caldecott Honor recipient, and will be a worthy addition to any child's library. It features a multi-racial cast of interesting characters, and not only is it a fun and delightful read, it will quickly make your little one an expert in orchestral instruments and their idiosyncracies.

Then there are the slyly subversive ones, which are almost more appealing to the adults than to the youngsters they're supposedly aimed at. One such is The Jazz Fly, a tongue-twisting, jammin', hoppin' and boppin' bundle of fun. Another is The Composer is Dead: "..wherever there's a conductor, you're sure to find a dead composer!" Lemony Snicket's inimitable style wins over children and adults alike, as wordplay, humour, and suspense are invoked in a mystery that will have you listening to the dramatic narrative over and over again, relishing Snicket's snide delivery.

Personally, I like to take my younger nephews and nieces to watch The Nutcracker around Christmas time. For the littlest ones, this may be their first introduction to a theatre setting or even to classical music. No matter how fidgety and cranky they may be, once that curtain rises, you can be sure their eyes will be glued to the performers on stage, mesmerized by the dancers, the beautiful costumes, the stunning stage sets, and transported by the music, story and drama. If you take your friends' children as well, you may be called upon, half-jokingly, to contribute to ballet lessons afterwards. For what little girl does not fully intend to become a ballerina once she has been immersed in Tchaikovsky's music and experienced the magic of a Nutcracker performance.

And there you have it, a list of the very best picture books on music, aimed at children of all ages, and will also appeal to grown-ups who will find them not only educational but clever, fun and delightful to read out loud.


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    • visionandfocus profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from North York, Canada

      Thanks, Docmo! I appreciate it!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks for the link- I will reciprocate and add a link to yours- great job!

    • visionandfocus profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from North York, Canada

      Hi Docmo! I agree that some parents ignore extra-curricular activities, and that's a very short-sighted view. Let's hope more will come to realise how important music is to a child's development and quality of life. Btw, I found your hub on children's classics and have linked to it, as our m.o. seems to be the same--get kids to develop to their full potential by providing them with stimulating activities from a young age. Thanks for commenting and all the best!

    • visionandfocus profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from North York, Canada

      Hi, Happyboomernurse! It's great to be part of a musical family, but even 'non-musical' parents can foster a love of music in their children with just a little effort, and create the kind of memories you cherish. Thanks for commenting!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      9 years ago from UK

      Far too many parents I know have a very narrow view of child development and place a lot of emphasis on academic pursuits and may ignore developing creativity and life skills. This is a timely reminder to develop the right brain as there is more and more evidence to prove the future belongs to those who can mix art and science, who can be creative as well as academic.

      Great list of books and ideas- I've bookmarked this hub to come back to and buy some for my own kids... up/useful!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      9 years ago from South Carolina

      What a delightful hub with so many useful suggestions that are sure to develop a love of music in children.

      I was blessed to be exposed to music at a very young age because my Dad and his 3 brothers all played instruments (piano, sax and clarinet) and during holiday gatherings the adults played wonderful songs like, "Heart and Soul" while some of my cousins and myself joined in with our toy instruments. As we got older we brought our real instruments along. Those are some of my most cherished memories.


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