You want your kids to learn more about classical music? These 11 great books and series will help.
1-An Introduction to Classical Music series
Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music, Simply Fantastic: An Introduction to Classical Music and Amazing Water: An Introduction to Classical Music
By Ana Gerhard (author), various illustrators
For various ages; CDs included
Published by The Secret Mountain, 48 to 68 pages, hardcover
This award-winning series introduces kids to classical music thematically, using pieces evocative of birds, of fairytale creatures, or of water, with two more books planned in the series. The beautiful illustrations will enchant younger children, but this isn’t a learn-to-read series; the small print and advanced vocabulary will require a more advanced reader to take younger children through the text.
2-Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
by Carolyn Sloan (Author), James Williamson (Illustrator)
Ages 2-6; sound book
Published by Workman Publishing Company, hardcover, 32 pages
With 19 sound buttons featuring familiar sounds from the string section tuning to the into to Beethoven’s Fifth, the mice conversing in this book will guide your little one through everything she might find at a symphony, from concert etiquette to harmony and tempo.
3-For Kids series
Beethoven for Kids: His Life and Music with 21 Activities and Verdi for Kids: His Life and Music with 21
by Helen Bauer (Author)
Published by Chicago Review Press, paperback, 144 pages
These comprehensive tomes include all kinds of historical and musical context that brings the biographical details to life. Activities include everything from crafts and games to perceptive musical listening and even composition exercises that anyone can do. Beethoven and Verdi are the only classical editions so far, but the series includes a number of offerings with figures from art, history, and science.
4-Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido D’Arezzo
by Susan Roth (author/illustrator)
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, hardcover, 40 pages
Surprisingly informative and yet highly accessible, this beautifully-illustrated story explores the story of Guido D’Arezzo, the father of Western musical notation, in an engaging way and using simple language, and even includes a glossary of musical terms and a bibliography.
5-Maestro Classics’ Stories in Music series
Peter the Wolf, The Nutcracker, The Story of Swan Lake, Carnival of the Animals, My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Tortoise and the Hare, Merry Pranks of Master Till, Casey at the Bat, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Soldier’s Tale and Juanita the Spanish Lobster
by various authors, illustrators, and narrators; The London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Simon (musicians)
For various ages; CDs included
Released by Maestro Classics, soft cover, 24 pages
These CD/activity book combos cover beloved stories from the classical music canon as well as from children’s literature. Each story features narration and music on disc, while the book portion includes additional information, illustrations, text and activities like word scrambles and match the instrument to the sound.
6-Can You Hear It?
by William Lach (author)
Ages 6-12; CD included
Published by Harry N. Abrams, hardcover, 40 pages
Produced in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this book encourages active listening by prompting listeners to identify certain instruments and the sounds they evoke in pieces like “Flight of the Bumblebee” or The Four Seasons, paired with images of iconic works from the museum’s collection.
7-Those Amazing Musical Instruments!: Your Guide to the Orchestra Through Sounds and Stories
by Genevieve Helsby (author), Marin Alsop (contributor)
Ages 9-12; CD-ROM included
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, hardcover, 176 pages
With an interesting, dynamic layout, this comprehensive guide to the instruments of the symphony orchestra features tips and commentary from legendary conductor Marin Alsop, a dictionary of terms, and plenty of did-you-know facts. However, the CD included here is in fact an interactive CD-ROM — which might seduce a tech-savvy kid, if your computer still has a CD drive, but the integration between computer and book is still somewhat awkward.
8-Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers series
Bach, The Beatles, Beethoven, Bernstein, Brahms, Chopin, Copland, Ellington, Gershwin, Handel, Mozart, Sousa, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky
by Mike Vezina (author/illustrator)
Published by Childrens Pr, paperback, 32 pages
These award-winning short-and-sweet books are perfect to introduce kids of various ages to their favourite composer, or many composers! Cartoon jokes illustrate pages of biographical facts, and a variety of composers and styles are covered, from Bach to the Beatles.
9-Story of the Orchestra: Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music!
by Robert Levine (Author), Meredith Hamilton (Illustrator)
Ages 8-13; CD included
Published by Black Dog & Leventhal, hardcover, 96 pages
An accessible, illustrated book that talks about both the instruments that make up the orchestra as well as some of the most famous composers and the eras in which they lived and worked, this book is completed by a 41-track CD full of musical examples.
10-My First Classical Music Book
by Genevieve Helsby (Author)
Ages 5-7; CD included
Published by Naxos Books, hardcover, 68 pages
A surprising amount of information is covered in a book aimed at younger readers; little ones will learn about composers from Handel and Brahms to Stravinsky and John Adams, and even get an introduction to minimalism — a subgenre that even many grown-ups struggle with!
11-Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin
by Lloyd Moss (Author), Marjorie Priceman (Illustrator)
Published by Simon & Schuster, hardcover or soft cover, 32 pages
While this title is not “educational” in the way of other titles on this list, it is a Caldecott Honor Book and a crowd favourite since its original publication in 1995. Poetic text and beautiful, fun illustrations make for a book that will familiarize kids with the sounds, feelings, and ideas of an evening at the symphony.