Musical Storytime Favorites

Reading picture books with young children is way more fun when music is involved! Here are some books that have proven to be audience favorites in our Musical Storytime program.

abiyoyoAbiyoyo – Pete Seeger; illustrated by Michael Hays
Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger adapted this South African folktale about a boy who uses his ukulele to take down a monstrous giant. It’s definitely my favorite book to read in storytime, and it often inspires children to borrow ukuleles from our collection of toolkits.

Drum Dream Girl – Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael López
Based on the childhood of Cuban percussionist Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, this book is an empowering story of perseverance against gender inequality. It may also encourage children to make their own music by imitating Millo’s various drumming styles. 

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! – Karen Beaumont; illustrated by David Catrow
This humorous story of a child who can’t stop painting the walls of their house– and eventually their body– is made extra-fun when it’s sung to the tune of the folk song “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More.”

gottherhythmI Got the Rhythm – Connie Schofield-Morrison; illustrated by Frank Morrison
A girl walks around her city and becomes entranced by the various rhythms, both musical and non-musical, that she hears throughout the day. Children will love snapping, clapping, and tapping along with the main character, and they may come away with a new appreciation for the music of everyday life. 

Kat Writes a Song – Greg Foley
A cat named Kat spends the day writing a song, and then sharing it with her neighbors. Kat’s song is incredibly catchy– even though the lyrics are just “Meow meow meow”– and by the end of the book, kids can’t help but sing along with it.

bowieLittle People, Big Dreams: David Bowie – María Isabel Sánchez Vegara; illustrated by Ana Albero
Even if they’ve never heard any of David Bowie’s music, children can appreciate his alien-like persona, and this book’s theme of being true to yourself, no matter how weird it may seem to others. I like to read this one in storytime while accompanied by some of the cosmic instrumental tracks on Bowie’s Low album.

Pokko and the Drum – Matthew Forsythe
A young frog receives a drum from her parents, and soon she’s leading a boisterous animal orchestra through the woods. On top of showing kids the value of following their creative muses, this book will have them laughing out loud more than once.

tuktukThe Wheels on the Tuk Tuk – Surishtha Sehgal & Kabir Sehgal; illustrated by Jess Golden
Using “The Wheels on the Bus” as its basis, this book takes us on a ride through the streets of a city in India. Everyone enjoys dancing along to this one, while learning about daily life in a place that may be unfamiliar to them.

There Was a Tree – Rachel Isadora
This one also brings a familiar song to a new setting, transposing the Appalachian folk song “The Green Grass Grows All Around” to an African savanna. Cumulative songs are always crowd-pleasers in storytime, especially when kids can try to guess what might come next. 

friendsWe’re Going to Be Friends – Jack White; illustrated by Elinor Blake
The White Stripes made rock n’ roll that both kids and adults can dig, so I love closing every storytime with their song “We’re Going to Be Friends.” I also love that they made this picture book adaptation of the song, with charmingly retro artwork by Elinor Blake.


– Joe O’Brien, Adult Services Librarian / Musical Storytime programmer

Livingston, NJ 07039, USA

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