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Jazz: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about jazz?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to jazz. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about jazz.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about jazz, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Charlie Parker Played Be Bop to popular sellers like Trombone Shorty to some of our favorite hidden gems like Ella Fitzgerald.

We hope this list of kids books about jazz can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!

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Trombone Shorty
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A Grammy-nominated headliner for the New Orleans Jazz Fest describes his childhood in Tremâe and how he came to be a bandleader by age six.

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Ella Fitzgerald
Written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara & illustrated by Bàrbara Alca
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Meet Ella Fitzgerald, one of the most influential jazz singers of all time! New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the inspirational life of the First Lady of Song, from her early singing days on the streets of Harlem, to her success as a jazz legend, with the message: ‘It’s not where you come from, but where you’re going that counts.’ With stylish and quirky illustrations and a facts and photo section at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

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Dark Was the Night
Written by Gary Golio & illustrated by E.B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

The poignant story of Blind Willie Johnson–the legendary Texas musician whose song “Dark Was the Night” was included on the Voyager I space probe’s Golden Record

Willie Johnson was born in 1897, and from the beginning he loved to sing–and play his cigar box guitar. But his childhood was interrupted when he lost his mother and his sight. How does a blind boy make his way in the world? Fortunately for Willie, the music saved him and brought him back into the light. His powerful voice, combined with the wailing of his slide guitar, moved people. Willie made a name for himself performing on street corners all over Texas. And one day he hit it big when he got a record deal and his songs were played on the radio. Then in 1977, his song–“Dark Was the Night”–was chosen to light up the darkness when it was launched into space on the Voyager I space probe’s famous Golden Record. His immortal song was selected for the way it expresses the loneliness humans all feel, while reminding us we’re not alone.

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Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe
Written by Vivian Kirkfield & illustrated by Alleanna Harris
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike–full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.

Ella Fitzgerald’s velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn’t wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town–one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet.

Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused.

Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are.

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Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown & illustrated by Frank Morrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

“A biography of African American musician Melba Doretta Liston, a virtuoso musician who played the trombone and composed and arranged music for many of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Includes afterword, discography, and sources”–

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  • Sonny's Bridge - This groovy, bebopping picture book biography chronicles the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins’s search for inspiration on the Williamsburg Bridge after quitting the jazz scene in 1959. Rollins is one of the most prolific sax players in the history of jazz, but, in 1959, at the height of his career, he vanished from the jazz scene. His return to music was an interesting journey–with a long detour on the Williamsburg Bridge. Too loud to practice in his apartment, Rollins played on the New York City landmark for two years among the cacophony of traffic and the stares of bystanders, leading to the release of his album, The Bridge. Written in rhythmic prose with a bebop edge, this picture-book biography of Sonny Rollins’s journey to get his groove back will delight young and old fans alike.

  • This Jazz Man - In this toe-tapping jazz tribute, the traditional “This Old Man” gets a swinging makeover, and some of the era’s best musicians take center stage. The tuneful text and vibrant illustrations bop, slide, and shimmy across the page as Satchmo plays one, Bojangles plays two . . . right on down the line to Charles Mingus, who plays nine, plucking strings that sound “divine.” Easy on the ear and the eye, this playful introduction to nine jazz giants will teach children to count—and will give them every reason to get up and dance! Includes a brief biography of each musician.

  • Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters - A picture book celebration of the indomitable Muddy Waters, a blues musician whose fierce and electric sound laid the groundwork for what would become rock and roll. Muddy Waters was never good at doing what he was told. When Grandma Della said the blues wouldn’t put food on the table, Muddy didn’t listen. And when record producers told him no one wanted to listen to a country boy playing country blues, Muddy ignored them as well. This tenacious streak carried Muddy from the hardscrabble fields of Mississippi to the smoky juke joints of Chicago and finally to a recording studio where a landmark record was made. Soon the world fell in love with the tough spirit of Muddy Waters. In blues-infused prose and soulful illustrations, Michael Mahin and award-winning artist Evan Turk tell Muddy’s fascinating and inspiring story of struggle, determination, and hope.

  • Charlie Parker Played Be Bop - Introduces the famous saxophonist and his style of jazz known as bebop.

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Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
Written by Roxane Orgill & illustrated by Francis Vallejo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

What happens when you invite as many jazz musicians as you can to pose for a photo in 1950s Harlem? Playful verse and glorious artwork capture an iconic moment for American jazz. When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era. Includes bios of several of the fifty-seven musicians, an author’s note, sources, a bibliography, and a foldout of Art Kane’s famous photograph.

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Struttin' With Some Barbeque
Written by Patricia Hruby Powell & illustrated by Rachel Himes
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

This is the true story of Lil Hardin Armstrong: pianist, composer, and bandleader in the early days of jazz. Ahead of her time, Lil made a career for herself–and for Louis Armstrong, her modest, unassuming husband. Louis might never have become the groundbreaking jazz player he was, if it hadn’t been for Lil. Scat-inspired verse celebrates how Lil overcame race and gender barriers to become the first lady of the Chicago jazz scene.

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The 5 O'Clock Band
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In this companion to the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning Trombone Shorty, join a scrappy young musician named Shorty on a tour of his beloved New Orleans. After letting his band down by missing rehearsal, Shorty has some serious questions about what it means to be a leader. He hits the streets of New Orleans to find some answers and soak up inspiration. Along the way he’ll meet street musicians, a favorite restaurant owner, and the famous Mardi Gras Indians. Each has some NOLA-bred wisdom to share with Shorty about being an artist, a leader, and a friend. In The 5 O’Clock Band, Troy Andrews has crafted another unforgettable love letter to New Orleans illustrated by the incomparable Bryan Collier.

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Ella Fitzgerald: My First Ella Fitzgerald
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

This board book version of Ella Fitzgerald—an international bestseller in the beloved Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to the First Lady of Song, from her early singing days on the streets of Harlem to her success as a jazz legend.

Ella Fitzgerald grew up near Harlem, in New York, where she was surrounded by music and dance. After winning first prize in a talent competition at the Apollo Theater, she went on to tour the world with her pioneering voice. Babies and toddlers will love to snuggle as you read to them the engaging story of this fascinating icon, and will also enjoy exploring the stylish and quirky illustrations of this sturdy board book on their own.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games, and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children.

Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

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Strange Fruit
Written by Gary Golio & illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-12

The audience was completely silent the first time Billie Holiday performed a song called “”Strange Fruit.”” In the 1930s, Billie was known as a performer of jazz and blues music, but this song wasn’t either of those things. It was a song about injustice, and it would change her life forever.

Discover how two outsiders–Billie Holiday, a young black woman raised in poverty, and Abel Meeropol, the son of Jewish immigrants–combined their talents to create a song that challenged racism and paved the way for the Civil Rights movement.””The audience was completely silent the first time Billie Holiday performed a song called “”Strange Fruit.”” In the 1930s, Billie was known as a performer of jazz and blues music, but this song wasn’t either of those things. It was a song about injustice, and it would change her life forever.

Discover how two outsiders–Billie Holiday, a young black woman raised in poverty, and Abel Meeropol, the son of Jewish immigrants–combined their talents to create a song that challenged racism and paved the way for the Civil Rights movement.

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  • Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane - 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.

  • Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite - It’s a challenge to transform the “Nutcracker Suite’s” romantic orchestra into jumpin’ jazz melodies, but that’s exactly what Duke Ellington and his collaborator, Billy Strayhorn, did. Ellington’s band memebers were not so sure that a classical ballet could become a cool-cat jazz number. But Duke and Billy, inspired by their travels and by musical styles past and present, infused the composition with Vegas glitz, Hollywood glamour, and even a little New York jazz. CD recording of the Ellington/Strayhorn composition included.

  • Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band -

    When a jazz-loving rooster sets his sights on winning a barnyard talent show, he realizes he can't do it as a solo act. He's up against the talents of Mules Davis's cool duo and Ella Finchgerald's singing group.
    Colorful artwork from artist Tim Bowers ensures this story doesn't miss a beat. A glossary of musical terms and intruments rounds out this perfect introduction to jazz for young readers.

  • Ella Queen of Jazz - Ella Fitzgerald sang the blues and she sang them good. Ella and her fellas were on the way up! It seemed like nothing could stop her, until the biggest club in town refused to let her play… and all because of her colour. But when all hope seemed lost, little did Ella imagine that a Hollywood star would step in to help. The inspiring, true story of how a remarkable friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe was born – and how they worked together to overcome prejudice and adversity.

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Mysterious Thelonious
Written & illustrated by Chris Raschka
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Matches the tones of the diatonic scale to the values of the color wheel in presenting a portrait of the work of the Afro-American jazz musician and composer of “Mysterioso”

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Bird & Diz
Written by Gary Golio & illustrated by Ed Young
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When sax player Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpeter John “Dizzy” Gillespie make music together, they toss notes back and forth like a game of tag and chase each other with sounds. As Dizzy’s cheeks puff out like a frog with glasses, the two friends beep and bop and push each other to create a new kind of music—a thrilling fast jazz full of surprises. Blending a playful, rhythmic narration with expressive illustrations as fluid and dynamic as their subjects, this tribute to the masters of bebop by acclaimed biographer Gary Golio and beloved artist Ed Young will have readers hankering to listen for themselves!

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