What to Read to the Kids If You Like Jazz Music

Hello, hepcats!

Do you love jazz music? Do you want some good children's books to go along with your favorite tunes? I've got some really good ones for you!

My husband, Jacob, loves jazz. I've learned more about jazz from him than from anyone else. He likes to quiz me when we're listening to jazz and I'm getting pretty good at identifying Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane and Medeski Martin & Wood. I already knew Louis Armstrong, of course. He always gets me with Fats Waller though! One day I'm going to guess Fats right.

Here are five picture books we love for their strong rhythm and jazz influence:

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka -- This picture book by a Caldecott-winning writer/illustrator was the first one that came to my mind. The words of the book can be sung to the tune of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker's recording of Night in Tunisia. They're so silly that my kids loved them, and I can still remember the chorus. 

Mysterious Thelonious, also by Chris Raschka, is the picture book that Jacob wanted to make sure was on this list. It's words fit with the song Misterioso, by Thelonious Monk. It looks like this one is only available used on Amazon. Jacob got a real kick out of how perfectly this book matched the song.

Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renée Watson is one that I read back in 2013 when it was nominated for the Cybils award, and it has stuck with me. It's the story of Florence Mills, who was a voice for change (literally and figuratively) in the early days of jazz. Sadly, she died before her singing was ever recorded. Happily, she has an awesome picture book now, illustrated by mega-award-winner Christian Robinson.

Mama Don't Allow by Thatcher Hurd is a book that really gets my toes tapping. In it, a young musician gets kicked out of the house for his wailing and jiving music, only to find that all of his friends are in the same boat. If you can find this one on audio, snag it! If not, at least enjoy it with the Reading Rainbow episode close at hand.

How Do You Wokka-Wokka? by Elizabeth Bluemle, illus. Randy Cecil. Reading  this super rhythmic picture book sounds almost like scatting. Shannon Hale recommended it on her blog years back and I love it! A walk through the neighborhood turns into a dance party.

Add your favorites to this list in the comments below, and share this post with your jazz-loving friends!

p.s. If you want to try out Amazon Prime Music, I've got a link for that. Since they've got 30-day free trials, it's worth a spin!


  1. I haven't read these but want to check them out now. Thanks! Listen to my trumpet, a piggies and elephant book by mo willems is not really a jazz book but kind of related and it is one of our favorites.

    1. You're welcome! And I think that elephant and piggie book would make an excellent addition to this list! I saw another one today that I might like to add: Trombone Shorty. I haven't read it yet, so I would have to do that first, but it's received a lot of praise.


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