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2024's Musical Reads: A Summertime Adventure

Students deserve to strike a balance of more play than work during their summer break. That's why we've posted articles such as How to Create a Balanced Practice Schedule for Your Child this Summer (which is excellent advice for older students, too). 

That said, there are plenty of terrific books out there that have music at their core and are also enjoyable reads. Here are recommendations divided by age.

Summer Music Reading for the 5- to 8-Year-Old Crowd

As the school bells ring one last time before summer break, it's the perfect opportunity to ignite children's imaginations and foster their love for music through captivating reads. Whether your little one dreams of playing the violin like a virtuoso or dancing to the beat of their own drum, these delightful books will transport them on a melodic journey they won't soon forget. Here are five musical reads for children to enjoy during the sunny days of summer 2024.

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, by Lloyd Moss (Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman) 

Embark on a whimsical musical adventure with "Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin," a picture book that introduces young readers to the enchanting world of orchestral instruments. With rhythmic text and vibrant illustrations, this book celebrates the joy of ensemble playing as each instrument joins the orchestra, building to a crescendo of sound. Perfect for budding musicians and music lovers alike, it's a delightful introduction to the magic of orchestral music.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music, by Margarita Engle (Illustrated by Rafael López)

Set against the vibrant backdrop of 1930s Cuba, "Drum Dream Girl" tells the inspiring story of a young girl who dreams of becoming a drummer despite societal expectations. Written in lyrical prose by award-winning author Margarita Engle and brought to life with stunning illustrations by Rafael López, this book celebrates the power of perseverance, courage, and the transformative nature of music. With its rhythmic text and vibrant imagery, it's a tale that will inspire children to march to the beat of their own drum.

"M is for Music" by Kathleen Krull (Author) and Stacy Innerst (Illustrator)

From A cappella to Zydeco, "M is for Music" is an engaging alphabet book that introduces young readers to the rich and diverse world of music. With lively illustrations and informative text, this book explores a wide range of musical genres, instruments, and musical concepts, making it the perfect introduction to the language of music for budding music enthusiasts. Whether your child is a future maestro or simply loves to sing and dance, this book is sure to strike a chord with young readers.

So there you have it, five enchanting musical reads to spark your child's imagination and foster a lifelong love for music. Whether they're dreaming of playing in a symphony orchestra or simply tapping their toes to the beat, these books are sure to inspire, entertain, and delight young readers this summer. So grab a book, find a cozy spot in the shade, and let the magic of music transport your child on a summer adventure they'll never forget.

Musical Fiction (and non-) for Older Kids

Here are books for the pre-teen crowd.

Why Beethoven Threw the Stew..., by Steven Isserlis  

That's right! Renowned cellist, Steven Isserlis, is the author of Why Beethoven Threw the Stew..., which compiles the book's subtitle, "lots more stories of other famous composers." It turns out that Steven Isserlis's cello instructor taught him about famous composers in entertaining ways so they could feel like "real people," allowing Isserlis to express their music via a more personal connection. This is the gift he wanted to give to other young musicians. You can read more about Steven Isserlis in this Artist Spotlight.

Amina's Voice, by Hena Khan

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she's in middle school, everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the "cool" girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more "American." Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in?

Amina's Voice is powerful at multiple levels. It covers the topic of stage fright (when so many other books about musicians highlight intentional desires for fame). And it also speaks about race, how it is to feel different from your peers, and the challenge of navigating the shifting realm of adolescent friendships. 

Better Nate than Ever, by Tim Federal

On the opposite end of the stage right spectrum, we meet Nate, who has a lifelong dream to be a Broadway star. That's something author Tim Federele knows much about since his Broadway play, "Tuck Everlasting," was nominated for a Tony. 

In Better Nate than Ever, Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he's wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he'd settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he's stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby's help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There's an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.

Books for the More Advanced Music Student

This list includes two non-fiction and one fictional novel. But, if you are a young adult or adult who is at the more advanced level, we're going to assume you love music, and these reads are all worth your time. The first and third books listed below are also listed on the USC Thornton School of Music's student reading list, so consider them proactive reading for your future music school admission.

The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart, by Madeline Bruser

This book is such a wise, warm, and very personal analysis of The Art of Practicing. It enlightens amateur, and professional musicians about a way of practicing that transforms a sometimes frustrating, monotonous, and overly strenuous labor into an exhilarating and rewarding experience. 

Acclaimed pianist and teacher Madeline Bruser combines physiological and meditative principles to help musicians release physical and mental tension and unleash their innate musical talent. She offers practical techniques for cultivating free and natural movement, a keen enjoyment of sounds and sensations, a clear and relaxed mind, and an open heart. She explains how to prepare the body and mind to practice with ease.

In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness, by Richard Wolf

Richard Wolf first tried Zen meditation in his teens, but no matter in what posture or for how long he sat, transcendence proved stubbornly out of reach. It was only years later that he found the bridge that could take him there: music. In Tune charts twelve "bridges" — skills and sensibilities refined in musical practice that carries over to mindfulness and meditation, among them: concentration, posture, harmony, silence, and The Art of Deep Listening.

This inspirational guide offers a wealth of music-based exercises to enhance daily meditation and creativity. Plus, Wolf shares personal anecdotes of eminent musicians—from Miles Davis to Dr. Dre—to illuminate points along the intersection of music and mindful living.

If I Stay (Book #1), by Gayle Forman

One of the best things about If I Stay is that it's the first of multiple books in Gayle Forman's award-winning Y.A. fiction series that the author hopes adults will read as well because it gives families something to discuss.

In, If I Stay, Choices (Book #2), by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia faces some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then one February morning, Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters. It is a heart-achingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make. 

We hope these summertime reads for music students will help you relax while keeping you connected to the art you love so much. Interested in more recommendations? Visit, Summertime Reading for Musicians.