“I see a song. I paint music. I hear colour. I touch the rainbow and the deep spring in the ground. My music talks. My colors dance. Come, listen, and let your imagination see your own song.” ~ Eric Carle
Here is a collection of five books that provide readers with the chance to explore different aspects of music – meanings of musical terms, the joy and magic of self expression, sounds that inspire us, genres of music that make us move, the musical imagination, and how music connects us to others. These are some of my favourites and I hope they add to your enjoyment of listening to and learning about music!
Kitamura, Satoshi. Igor, the Bird who Couldn’t Sing. London: Andersen Press 2005
With humour and sensitivity, Satoshi Kitamura describes how it feels to have a musical soul, but not musical “talent”. Igor wants to sing with the other birds, and though he tries, and practises and takes lessons, he is laughed at by his more talented peers. Everywhere he goes he meets different musical types and his confidence goes downhill. Discouraged and down-hearted, Igor flees to an empty desert. Inspired by a beautiful sunset, he sings joyfully, thinking no one can hear him. To his surprise he awakens a dodo that joins in his song, and truly appreciates his unique voice. The simple story and bright illustrations capture the joy, beauty and sense of community that music can bring to our lives, and encourage us to just sing!
Krull, Kathleen. M is for Music. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003
“M is for music, music teachers, mistakes and Mozart” is just one of the inviting sentences to be found in this unusual alphabet book. Embedded in Stacy Innerst’s dream-like paintings are images of musicians, instruments, and words for musical terms and styles. Readers can hunt for intriguing words from aria to zither, count words on each page, and try to group the words (e.g., by instrument, artist or style). The book begins with inspirational quotes and concludes with a glossary that defines terms and provides details about composers, instruments and music history. While encouraging alphabetic awareness, this lovely book welcomes young readers into the rich world of music and provides a window into the breadth of its beauty.
Ehrhardt, Karen. This Jazz Man. Orlando: Harcourt, 2006
Sung to the tune of ‘This Old Man’ Ehrhardt’s be-bopping book invites readers to learn about numbers, instruments, rhythm patterns and jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. R.G. Roth’s gorgeous mixed media collages and prints bring motion and joy to the text, and include musical phrases such as “hop-step-sliiiide!” and “doodly-doodly-doot-doot!” and “thimp dumple thump-thump!” – a playful
opportunity to imitate snapping fingers, tapping feet, congas, trumpets, pianos and more. The conclusion of the book includes some biographical information about well-known artists and their contribution to the music world. What a wonderful introduction to jazz!
Pinkney, J. Brian. Max Found Two Sticks. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1994
Pinkney’s perfect book introduces readers to Max and his friends and family as he spends a day making his own music with found objects like sticks, bottles, buckets and hat boxes. As he taps different rhythms he hears them reflected in sounds around him like pigeons flying, rain falling, church bells ringing and trains rattling by. Readers can participate in the music making, either tapping rhythms on their laps or repeating phrases like, ‘putter putter pat-tat’, ‘dong-dang-dung’ and ‘cling clang da-BANG!’ The exquisite details in Pinkney’s scratchboard illustrations capture the rich life of Max’s neighbourhood and the sounds he attends to in his day to day life. Though Max does not talk until the end of the story, the sounds he makes speak volumes about his unique ability to express himself through music with whatever is available to him.
Carle, Eric. I See a Song. New York: Crowell, 1973
This is a bright and beautiful book that speaks to the musical imagination. What makes it unique is the absence of words, which provides a wonderful opportunity to discover what children know (or would like to know) about music, by making space for their words. Eric Carle’s artwork suggests all kinds of moods, patterns and ways to move. By asking children open-ended questions, such as “How does that picture make you feel?” or “What kind of sound does that picture make you hear?” or “Who can use their body to move like the shapes in this picture?” children can construct and describe their own understandings about music and movement. As an extension to reading the book, you could play different styles of music and encourage children to paint or create torn paper collages inspired by the illustrations. This book allows children to deepen their understanding of music using even more than the sense of sound.