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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Top 10 books for the music room

Books in the music room are great! Sometimes they form a key part of your lesson, sometimes they are a back-up that you pull out in the last few minutes of a class. Either way, I thought I'd list my top 10 classics that I keep coming back to time and time again. Each picture will link you to an online site where you can purchase the books if you are interested.

Secrets of the Sea

1. Secrets of the Sea - Christian Riese Lassen

This book is simply magical. I don't really know what else to say about it, except that when reading this to my students (of any age, really) you can hear a pin drop in the classroom throughout the whole book. It's a gorgeous pop-up with beautiful illustrations and the text fits with the melody to "Away From The Roll Of The Sea" by Allister McGillivray (check out a choral recording here)

Funga Alafia book

2. Funga Alafia - Music Map series

Funga Alafia is the gift that just keeps giving. I've written about it in my Welcome Songs post and I use this book to practice the pentatonic scale AND to present syncopa. This book, like all the ones in the MusicMap series, has a CD recording of the song which you can play as you read along. During an instrumental section of the song, it shows the contour of the melody with little silver elephants dotted along the page - what's even cooler is that it shows the rhythm of crotchets and quavers by having big and little elephants! What a perfect visual representation of syncopa!

Story Orchestra The Nutcracker book

3. The Nutcracker - The Story Orchestra

This book is excellent for a Christmas listening lesson. It tells the story of The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky's famous ballet) and on each page there is a button which plays a snippet of music from the ballet to accompany the story. I'll be posting more details of the full listening lesson I use this book for a little closer to Christmas, but it's an excellent one to use throughout the year and I never get tired of seeing my students' faces light up as they hear the familiar strains of the Sugar Plum Fairy and excitedly whisper "I know this!"

Tailor and the Mouse book

4. The Tailor and the Mouse - John Feierabend

John Feierabend could easily fill a whole list of top 10 books, but this one is a particular favourite of mine. It has a catchy melody, is easily adaptable to work as a Call & Response with your students and has just enough of the gruesome factor to win over kids of a certain age (spoiler alert -the poor mouse almost gets baked in a pie at one stage!). This piece has also been arranged for two-part choir if you are also involved with your school's choral program and are looking for repertoire.

My Island Home book

5. My Island Home - Neil Murray

A beautiful song speaking of yearning for home, this Australian classic was perhaps made most famous by Christine Anu, though it is in fact by Neil Murray and originally performed by the Warumpi band.

This book ties nicely into a ukulele unit as it is a three-chord song, lending itself nicely to discussions of primary chords, or even just asking the question "what is a chord?" if that's where you're up to.

Somewhere In Australia book

6. Somewhere In Australia - Marcello Pennacchio

Set to the tune of Over In The Meadow, this counting book lists Australian fauna in their native habitats beautifully illustrated by Danny Snell. I like to use this book for a solo singing/improvising experience with younger students. We sing through the book, then go back and ask students to sing what else they can see on each page eg. "I can see a river", "I can see a gumtree" etc.

The Crabfish book

7, The Crabfish - John Feierabend

As mentioned above, any of John Feierabend's books are golden, but I have also included this one because of its distinctive melody (there are some large leaps of a minor 7th) as well as its gorgeous appearance. Students are often as transfixed by the music as they are entertained by the story.

Cat Goes Fiddle-i-Fee book

8. Cat Goes Fiddle-i-Fee - Paul Galdone

The Cat Goes Fiddle-i-Fee is a great one for vocal exploration with your prep kids - it features a veritable menagerie of animals and the sound effects they make. This is a lot of fun for young kids to join in with and explore their voices - you'll have them singing before they know it!

Down By The Bay Book

9. Down By The Bay - Nadine Bernard

I love performing this as a call-and-response with students. I've even done this for a class performance! Raffi has a well-known recording of this book which you can play for your class, or sing yourself. It also works well as a springboard for composition activities.

Gustav Mole book

10. The Musical Life of Gustav Mole - Kathryn Meyrick

This book is absolutely adorable for introducing students to various instruments of the orchestra or as a tie-in to composer studies (in case you missed it, our mammalian protagonist is a pun on Gustav Mahler). There is also an adorable puppet pack available to help with the storytelling!

Do you have a favourite book to share with students in your music classroom? Drop us a line and let us know!

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