Upper Elementary to Middle School Books

Theme: The World of Music and the Arts

Action Jackson - (ISBN: 0761316825 )

by Jan Greenberg

Readers delve into the life of the very private Jackson Pollock as he thinks, creates, and paints one of his famous works. They find out he was inspired not only by his internal life, but also by his pets, his early life in the American West, and his need to make large movements as he painted. See how his often controversial abstract pieces happened as he moved his body and soul across the canvas.

Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d'Arezzo - (ISBN: 978-0618465729 )

by Susan Roth

This fictionalized biography of the man who finalized the musical notation system we use today contains collage-type illustrations and whimsical faces who wonder at the new system. Musicians before the 11th century used to memorize music to perform it and to pass it on to the next generation, so not only did d’Arezzo begin a new system, he also had to persuade the skeptics around him to try it!

Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century Art - (ISBN: 978-0810943865)

by Jan Greenburg

Over 40 professional poets write original poems in response to pieces of art in this delightful book which resembles a picture book only in the fact that it displays each piece of art clearly and beautifully. Readers appreciate the difficulty in describing art works with words, learn about art, colors, and composition, and develop a beginning introduction to artists they can appreciate.

Jazz - (ISBN: 978-0823415458 )

by Walter Dean Myers Myers

The poems and accompanying illustrations (done by Myers’son Christopher) in this book mimic the jazz forms and instruments they depict in the text. The elements of jazz, its syncopation, silences, spacing, beat, and improvisation are echoed in the pages of poetry and moods created by the graphics.

John's Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon - (ISBN: 0786808179)

by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier

This wonderful, simple-to-read biography begins with John’s life as a small boy when he used his imagination to combat his loneliness. Throughout his life, his musical creations served to express his talent and also to help him deal with his uncertainties. The book is laced with references to his lyrics and the positive aspects of his life.

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (And What The Neighbors Thought) - (ISBN: 978-0152164362 )

by Kathleen Krull

In this nonfiction selection, interesting and humorous tidbits of 16 musicians’ lives along with vital details about their music, compositions, and contributions to their particular era will draw the reader into the history of music without their noticing!

This Land Is My Land - (ISBN: 978-0892391844 )

by George Littlechild

George Littlechild, the Plains Cree artist whose work fills the pages of this beautiful book, paints his life history and that of his ancestors. Through portraits of his forbears, the history of Native American forced education and its subsequent pain and suffering comes through in vibrant paintings and mixed media presentations. Readers and lookers learn about Native American art styles, symbols, precedents, and unfair past treatment in the simple but powerful art shown here.

Unlikely Pairs - (ISBN: 978-0761323785 )

by Bob Raczka

By pairing up famous artworks in surprising combinations, Raczka points out specific elements in art that relate the paintings to each other. Readers will be well on their ways to becoming art critics without knowing it when they carefully consider the comparisons on these pages.

Yang the Youngest - (ISBN: 978-0440409175 )

by Lensey Namioka

What is young boy to do when he’s tone deaf, especially when his parents are professional musicians? Compounding his problem is the fact that he recently moved with his family from China to the U.S. All he really wants to do is play baseball! Use this book with children who prefer sports to culture to find out YingtaoYang’s surprising solution to his seemingly insurmountable problem.

Blues Journey - (ISBN: 978-0823420797 )

by Walter Dean Walter Dean Myers

Jazz A B Z - (ISBN: 978-0763621353 )

by Wynton Marsalis

Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) - (ISBN: 978-0152001032 )

by Kathleen Krull

Willy's Pictures - (ISBN: 978-0744582406 )

by Anthony Browne

Activities for this Theme

Take your children Christmas caroling around your neighborhood or to local senior citizen’s centers.

Try taking photos of unusual things with a digital camera. Make a slide show on your computer and guess what the objects are.

Make a mosaic with your kids.

Make a tube drum and play it along with your favorite CDs.

After reading the John Lennon biography, listen to some of the Beatles’ albums, and try to match the pages with the songs that inspired them. You can borrow CDs from the public library.

Encourage your children to try taking band or orchestra when playing an instrument is introduced in school during 4th or 5th grade.

Put a large piece of butcher paper on a garage wall and encourage your children to cover it with paints using a variety of techniques (spatter, handprints, large brushstrokes, sponge-painting, etc.)