Art, Music, and Dance: Books for Young Children
These books celebrate diverse expressions and forms of art, music, and dance from across the country and around the world. It won't take long for little ones to tap their toes and create new masterpieces after reading these gems!
- More children's books on art, music, and dance (Reading Rockets)
- Reading Adventure Pack: Music (Reading Rockets)
- Music and Musicians: Activities and Books (Reading Rockets)
- Art and Artists: Activities and Books (Reading Rockets)
- Sing, Play, and Hear: Music’s in the Air – also available in Spanish/Polish (Illinois Early Learning Project)
- 50 Books about the Arts (Children’s Cooperative Book Center)
Related tip sheets
A Tisket, a Tasket
The song made famous by jazz great Ella Fitzgerald in the 1930s has been re-created, re-energized and newly presented in a picture book version. Sprightly cut paper collage illustrations show two children losing and ultimately finding both a lost basket and a friendship.
ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish
In this brightly colored book, the alphabet is presented in both Spanish and English, and includes the four additional letters — and whimsical animals — that make the Spanish alphabet so much fun. Two brothers who are famous folk artists from Oaxaca, Mexico carved the wonderful animal figures that illustrate each letter in ABeCedarios.
Arrorró, Mi Niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games (Audio CD)
This recording features a selection of nursery rhymes and games from different countries that are presented in both Spanish and English. Compiled by Lulu Delacre, the songs are performed by Cantaré. This recording accompanies the book of the same title.
Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane
John's music began when he listened to the music in his childhood. Semi-abstract illustrations vivify sound-filled poetry, together introducing a boy who would grow up to become the great John Coltrane.
Two children go outdoors to collect musical instruments for a joyful parade and are joined by friends. The children march, play, and sing to the delight of their families. Simple words in English and Spanish combine with soft illustrations for a satisfying story.
Conoce a Pablo Picasso (Get to Know Pablo Picasso)
The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso is considered one of the most important and revolutionary artists of the 20th century. More than 20,000 of his works can be admired in museums around the world. From a very young age, he showed incredible artistic talent. His father was a painter who let Pablo finish his paintings ever since he was a small boy. Pablo Picasso died in 1973, but his work continues to influence many artists today.
Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
Danza! is a celebration of Hernández’s life and of the rich history of dance in Mexico. As a child, Amalia always thought she would grow up to be a teacher, until she saw a performance of dancers in her town square. She was fascinated by the way the dancers twirled and swayed, and she knew that someday she would be a dancer, too. She began to study many different types of dance, including ballet and modern, under some of the best teachers in the world. Hernández traveled throughout Mexico studying and learning regional dances.
Diez Deditos and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America
This bilingual collection of finger rhymes and action songs highlights the richness of the Latin American culture to support a child's language development, listening skills and basic concepts. Your kids will have fun singing, clapping, dancing and enjoying vibrant themes such as languages, parts of the body, animals, sounds and musical instruments. This collection also teaches kids the importance of family and self-esteem. Lyrics are presented in both English and Spanish, and easy-to-follow musical accompaniment and diagrams for the corresponding actions are also provided.
Double Bass Blues
Nic is an aspiring musician whose life spans two different worlds--his suburban school where he wows his friends in orchestra, and the busy city streets of his home where he's jostled by the crowd. Nic makes his way home from a busy day at school with a double bass on his back, the symphony of his surroundings in his heart, and a sweet surprise for the reader at the end of his journey. This is a sweet, melodious picture book about how dedication, music, and family can overcome any obstacle.
Drummer Boy of John John
Product Description: Carnival is coming, and the villagers of John John, Trinidad, are getting ready to celebrate. Best of all, the Roti King has promised free rotis — tasty fried pancakes filled with chicken, herbs, and spices — for the best band in the parade. Young Winston dreams of feasting on those delicious rotis. But there's a problem: he's not in a band! Pondering his predicament as he wanders through the village junkyard, Winston makes a curious musical discovery that may be just the ticket to realizing his dream.
Every Little Thing
Now in board book, Every Little Thing brings Bob Marley's beloved song to life "Three Little Birds" for a new generation. Every family will relate to this universal story of a boy who won't let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three special little birds. Including all the lyrics of the original song plus new verses, this cheerful book will bring a smile to faces of all ages — because every little thing's gonna be all right.
Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills
Bold, bright illustrations and a cheerful text that includes song lyrics introduce the life of an early 20th century African American performer. Though part of the Harlem Renaissance, Mills is a relative unknown who both on and off stage worked to help other African Americans and those who were less fortunate than she. An author's note concludes this charming life sketch.
Hush! A Thai Lullaby
A loving mother asks animals from a water buffalo to a lizard to "hush" so her baby can sleep. Once the noises stop, the mother herself sleeps — and the baby is now awake! Textured illustrations evoke the Thai setting and convey the understated humor of this unique bedtime book.
It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
A former slave and sharecropper Bill Traylor moved to the city after his wife's death. Though he stored up memories of farm life and family, Traylor only began creating art in his 80s when he was homeless. Another artist, Charles Shannon, championed Traylor's work. Traylor is now considered among the most significant of self-taught folk artists.
Lively language and colorful illustrations are sure to get children (and adults!) out of their seats as the music and instruments come alive and an animated party begins.
Kenya is looking for a favorite song to share with her class. She and her father attend a Caribbean music festival in search of it — but Kenya doesn't find it there. Instead, she creates an original song that celebrates everyone's music! Realistic illustrations suggest Kenya's glimpse into other cultures and her own creativity.
Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals
Three well known spirituals, "This Little Light of Mine," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," have been interpreted in vivid, jewel-toned illustrations and presented in a large format for a new generation. A bit of information about the songs' history as well as musical notation for each are included.
Little Chickies / Los Pollitos
This book is based on “Los Pollitos Dicen”, one of the most popular songs in the Spanish speaking world.
Little Elephants / Elefantitos
This children’s book is based on the song “Un elefante se balanceaba”, a traditional Mexican counting song. It teaches little ones how to count to five plus serves as the perfect bedtime story.
Little Mice / Ratoncitos
Little Mice / Ratoncitos is a children's board book is based on the song Cinco ratoncitos de colita gris, a beloved finger-play song from Latin America. The book tells the story of five playful mice on a mission: to find and eat as much cheese as they possibly can before they get caught by the cat for lunch!
Little Sunny Sunshine / Sol Solecito
Sing, laugh, and play along with this interactive, bilingual board book that's inspired by a traditional Colombian folk song. Each day of the week, Piggy loves to play outside with little sunny sunshine/sol solecito, and he loves admiring the moon when the day is done.
Market Day: A Story Told with Folk Art
It's market day! Everyone's going to the town square for a farmers market like no other — and you're invited to come along. Lois Ehlert's Market Day takes you on a colorful journey around the world in a fun story told with folk art.
Henry dreams of becoming a rock star drummer and practices at home whenever he can. One day while Henry is drumming, his mom has to work, and asks him to stop playing. Henry decides to go outside to play his drum and he sees his friends. Henry wants to keep practicing, but he also wants to play with his friends. By playing Freeze Dance, he can do both. And when his mother finishes work that evening, they figure out how to enjoy music together too.
My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz
The beautiful artwork of this award-winning picture book about salsa queen Celia Cruz practically jumps off the page, and conveys the spirit and rhythmic energy of her music. Learn about Cruz's childhood in Havana and her entry into the world of salsa music from vibrant illustrations and text presented in English and Spanish.
My Tata's Guitar
When a little boy explores his grandfather's garage, he finds a treasure — his grandfather's old guitar. He learns that the guitar has provided the music for Christmas posadas, love songs, and campfires. Nothing is more exciting for the boy, however, than the moment that his grandfather offers to teach him how to play his guitar. The story and illustrations offer a lovely tribute to Latino families and traditions. Bilingual text.
Niimiwin: Everyone Dance
Join the children of Fond du Lac Head Start as they celebrate the Ojibwe culture through the ancient tradition of the Powwow. This book gives the reader a look at the Powwow from preparation through to the Grand Entry, the dancing, the feast and an invitation to Native and non-Native alike to "see you at the next year's Powwow." — Birchbark Books
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe's vivid text and bold artwork echoes Basquiat's own and carries the powerful message that art doesn't always have to be neat or clean to be beautiful. Winner of the Caldecott Medal.
So Many Sounds
A wonderful rhyming read-aloud featuring everyday sounds and a refrain that children will love repeating. The playful text and illustrations are sure to delight little ones while also inviting them to pay more attention to the world around them.
Ten Little Birds / Diez Pajaritos
Count to 10 and back again with Latin Grammy Award-winning children's musical duo 123 Andrés in this bilingual board book! The popular song from 123 Andrés' Latin Grammy Award-winning album is cleverly and beautifully brought to life in this bright, bouncy board book! Each of the 10 birds is given a fun and silly personality, and children will love to follow along as each flies away — and escapes a lurking kitty!
The Best Mariachi in the World
Product Description: Everyone in Gustavo's family is in a mariachi band…Everyone except Gustavo, that is. They all play violines, trompetas and guitarrones. They all make wonderful music in restaurants and at wedding parties. Gustavo would love to join the band, but he can't play any of the instruments. What's a wannabe mariachi to do? Follow Gustavo as he finds his place in the family mariachi band.
The Birthday Book / Las Mañanitas
This children's book is based on the song "Las Mañanitas", a beloved finger-play song from Latin America.
We Play Music
It’s a celebration of sound when a group of neighborhood children gather on a stoop to play their instruments. Spanish version available.
We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands
Award-winning illustrator Rafael López brings new life with his adaptation of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," saluting the lives of all young people. The rhythmic verse and repetitive emphasis on "we" and "our" encourages inclusive communities and the celebration of unity and diverse friendships all around the world.
Welcome Song for Baby
Product Description: From renowned First Nations storyteller Richard Van Camp comes a lyrical lullaby for newborns. Complemented with stunning photographs, this evocative board book is perfectly suited as a first book for every baby.
See more great related resources and videos in our Multicultural Literature section!