Best Picture Books About Jazz for Kids: Find these books at your local library or purchase through the affiliate links provided for your convenience. All recommendations are my own.
Child-focused artists like Laurie Berkner may rule your home, but it doesn’t mean your child won’t be open to learning about other types of music as well. From an early age, I started exposing my kids to all different types of jazz… and books were the perfect way to do that!
I write so often about books, I’ve put them in one central location and created a collection of all of my book lists! Find more great reading book lists here.
There are some amazing books that come with audio CDs that act as the perfect introduction to jazz, as well as some that talk about the jazz greats. For toddlers (and older), I highly recommend Jazz Fly 2, which introduces children to Latin-influenced jazz as well as some Spanish. For preschoolers (and older), Ben’s Trumpetuses the sound of jazz to tell the story of a boy who just wants to play the trumpet. Jazzis an awesome book for Kindergarteners on up, which walks children through poetry accompanied by the whole spectrum of the genre.
In addition, I recommend three books that don’t have audio CDs. The first is for younger children which visually shows how jazz may look (and is about John Coltrane) called Before John Was a Jazz Giant. For grade school children, there are two terrific books you can read over and over again: Wynton Marsalis Jazz A B Z and Spirit Seeker – John Contrane’s Musical Journey.
Best Picture Books About Jazz for Children
Jazz Fly 2: This awaited sequel to the multiple-award winning original Jazz Fly combines witty illustrations, rhythmic narration and irresistible music provided by a jazz quintet. The jazz-scatting Fly and his insect band need a ride to the tropical pachanga, or dance party. A sloth, spider monkey and macaw can help but only if the band chants the right Spanish words. Can one part jazz and one part Spanish make a language problem vanish? Find out how the Fly s creativity saves El Termite Nook from destruction. Jumping with bongo drums, conga drums, sax solos and more, this spirited–and funny– adventure welcomes listeners to Spanish and Latin jazz.
Ben’s Trumpet: The story of Ben is fiction, but it could be the story of more than one jazz musician who grew up in the twenties. Using the art-deco style of the period, Rachel Isadora not only captures the poignancy and yearning of a youthful talent, but in page after page of striking art seems to convey the very sound of music.
Jazz: This smash-hit picture book of jazz music poems, from award-winning father-don team Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers, is now available in paperback. There’s a crazy syncopation /and it’s tearing through the nation / and it’s bringing sweet elation / to every single tune./ It’s Jazz/ From bebop to New Orleans, from ragtime to boogie, and every style in between, this collection of Walter Dean Myers’s energetic and engaging poems, accompanied by Christopher Myers’s bright and exhilarating paintings, celebrates different styles of the American art form, jazz. “JAZZ” takes readers on a musical journey from jazz’s beginnings to the present day. Includes time line and jazz glossary.
Before John Was a Jazz Giant: Young John Coltrane was all ears. And there was a lot to hear growing up in the South in the 1930s: preachers praying, music on the radio, the bustling of the household. These vivid noises shaped John’s own sound as a musician. Carole Boston Weatherford and Sean Qualls have composed an amazingly rich hymn to the childhood of jazz legend John Coltrane. Before John Was a Jazz Giant is a 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book and a 2009 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Wynton Marsalis Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits: The award-winning book by celebrated jazz composer Wynton Marsalis is now available with an exclusive art print by illustrator Paul Rogers
Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey: Growing up, John was a seeker. He wondered about spirit, and the meaning of life. And whether music could be a key to unlocking those mysteries. Like his grandfather’s preaching and his parents’ songs, could John’s music bring people closer to God? Told in moving prose and powerfully illustrated, this is the story of a shy, curious boy from a deeply religious family who grew up to find solace and inspiration in his own unique approach to both spirituality and music. John Coltrane—a legendary jazz musician whose work shattered boundaries and continues to influence countless artists to this day.