Jazz is a genre with a sound all its own, and the musicians who’ve mastered it are nothing short of legends.
Picture this: it’s a Sunday afternoon and you’re hanging out at home, some fine jazz music playing in the background. Favourite bevy in hand, you’re curled up on the couch reading a picture book with your child. Now imagine that picture book goes perfectly with the scene you’ve set…
We’ve paired 10 kids’ books about jazz with music that we think fits well with the story. It’s an excellent way to introduce your child to this creative musical genre and engage their imagination in the story.
What are you waiting for? Now’s the time to celebrate jazz music as a family!
1. Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford
Pair with: Giant Steps by John Coltrane
Carole Boston Weatherford’s storybook tells the story of saxophone player John Coltrane when he was just a kid, listening to the music around him and getting inspired to make music of his own. Read this one while blasting John Coltrane’s classic 1960 album Giant Steps.
2. How Do You Wokka Wokka by Elizabeth Bluemle
Pair with: Walkin' by Miles Davis Sextet
“Some days you wake up and you just gotta wokka,” Elizabeth Bluemle’s story begins. How Do You Wokka-Wokka is a rhyming story that is a blast to read. Whether you’re walking “up and down the blocka” or “like flamingos in a flocka,” don’t forget to walk to the beat! What better album to “wokka wokka” to than Miles Davis’ Walkin’?
3. Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter
Pair With: J’ai Deux Amours by Josephine Baker
Jazz songstress Josephine Baker knew how to dance like no one else. Born in St. Louis in 1906, she took the world by storm with her fancy dance moves and beautiful voice. Jonah Winter’s storybook Jazz Age Josephine tells how Baker rose to fame first in New York and then in Paris. Read it while you listen to Josephine Baker’s swingin’ album J’ai Deux Amours.
4. Jazzmattazz by Stephanie Calmenson
Pair With: Her Trio, Her Quartet by Toshiko Akiyoshi
In Stephanie Calmenson’s Jazzmatazz, a whole town starts singing and playing jazz all because of a mouse scurrying across the keys of a piano. The mouse is quick and plinks and plonks all over the keys. Read Jazzmatazz while streaming music from legendary jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi.
5. Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordan
Pair With: Lady Soul by Vi Redd
In Herman and Rosie, Herman the crocodile plays the oboe while Rosie the deer sings soulful tunes. A perfect voice and instrumental talent to pair this book with is Vi Redd. She plays the saxophone and sings in Lady Soul. Read about Herman and Rosie trying to make it big in New York City, while listening to big time talent Vi Redd.
6. Cool Bopper’s Choppers by Linda Oatman High
Pair With: Journey in Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane
Check out these two titles that focus on very different musical journeys. Alice Coltrane’s album Journey in Satchidananda is a musical reflection on a spiritual journey, while Cool Bopper’s Choppers tells of a very different journey. Cool Bopper is a saxophone player who accidentally drops his dentures down the drain and journeys to the ocean to search for them. Take a journey of your own by putting these two jazzy titles together.
7. Bat and Rat by Patrick Jennings
Pair With: Zodiac Suite by Mary Lou Williams
8. Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo Dillon
Pair With: Afro-Harping by Dorothy Ashby
When reading Jazz on A Saturday Night, you’ll encounter a drummer, a guitarist, a trumpeter, two saxophonists, a pianist, a bassist and a couple of singers—almost every jazz instrument in existence (except, the harp). Dorothy Ashby’s Afro-Harping is one of the few albums to feature jazz harp—the perfect addition to a story that has everything else—and if you haven’t heard it, have a listen because you’re in for treat!
9. Cool Daddy Rat by Kristyn Crow
Pair With: Everybody Digs Bill Evans by Bill Evans Trio
Everybody digs Bill Evans, and everybody digs Cool Daddy Rat. Bill Evans plays a mean piano, while Cool Daddy Rat plays an upright bass. Both titles will take you right inside a tiny jazz club in New York City. Wanna be as cool as a New York jazz cat? Dig some Bill Evans and some Cool Daddy Rat!
10. Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler
Pair With: Ain’t It Funky Now: Original Jam Master GG Vol. 1 by Grant Green
“Brother’s hands tap. Sister’s hands snap. Itty-bitty Baby’s hands clap-clap-clap,” begins Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler. This book is full of jazzy rhymes to read to your little one. A book as funky as Jazz Baby is best accompanied by some funky jazz. Stream Grant Green’s 1970 jazz-funk classic, Ain’t It Funky Now, and you’ll be movin’ to the groove!
Can’t get enough? We’ve got plenty more fantastic exploration of sound and music, rhythm and rhyme in our kids’ collection.