Beautiful books that tell the stories of some of the greatest musicians of all time? Yes please. We want our children to engage with these musicians’ stories as they listen to music and as they begin to write their own life-stories. We try to find a good range of artists from different points in time & from different areas & various cultures. Just like with our art history books, we really want our kids to see the diversity in music history, learning from people who look, talk, and paint different from them, and also to find artists with whom they can relate culturally. Here are some of the books we use to help us come together and appreciate one another through art– all while learning history & learning to look at artist’s contexts and not just their artworks.

Drum Dream Girl

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
Written by Margarita Engle
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Inspired by the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban female drummer whose music transcended and shaped traditional gender expectations and made a way for more female percussionists. 

When the Beat was Born

When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrated by Theodore Taylor

The story of Clive Campbell, DJ Kool Herc, who came from Jamaica to the Bronx to shape the beginning of Hip Hop.

A Splash of Red, the Life and Art of Horace Pippin

Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson
Illustrated by Christian Robinson

The story of the “Queen of Happiness,” Florence Mills, Broadway singer & dancer.

Frida

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown
Illustrated by Frank Morrison

The story of Melba Liston whose trombone playing took the jazz world by storm.

When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat by Muriel Harris Weinstein
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

An interesting way to teach about Louis Armstrong’s classic and revolutionary music form ‘scat’, here a child comes to Louis Armstrong in her dreams to be transported in playful-lyrical text through scat-dream-worlds. A total delight to read, especially if you let yourself go all in <3

Tito Puente: Mambo King by Monica Brown
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

The story of Tito Puente, the drummer dubbed, “Mambo King.”