(Note: This photo is missing a couple of my recommendations you’ll read about below.)
Thanks to reader Emily Suszko for this post suggestion!
Ever since I opened my studio, I have been building a collection of piano-themed children’s books in my lending library. I’m not sure if I got the idea from someone else or it just seemed the natural thing to do. In any case, a lending library can be a fun and valuable addition to your music studio.
Today I want to share with you 15 of my favorite books thus far so you can begin building your own library! Since it can be an expensive endeavor if you’re not careful, I’ll also share a couple of tips on how to do so without breaking the bank as well as how to track check-outs.
Why Keep A Lending Library
First of all, let’s talk about some of the benefits of keeping a lending library in your music studio.
Many books will support what we do in the lesson as well as teach valuable life lessons including the joy of creating at the piano, the importance of practice, the joy of music-making, and more.
#2 Added Value
Anything we can do in our music studios to take it to the next level shows potential clients they’re getting added value. It also conveys to families that we care about students in a multitude of ways outside of just their time at the piano.
#3 Ease of Access
Families may not have ever considered looking for books at the library for their children that are music-themed. Having a collection right in your studio makes it easy for them to utilize and enjoy.
I’ll admit, up until recently, I wasn’t very intentional about the books I had in my library. Families would bring me books from used book sales or from their own stash and I would add them into the mix without much thought including ones that were practically for toddlers about (for example) drumming sounds.
I’m not saying those are not valuable books, but be sure and consider your audience. When the request for this post came in, I finally took time to clean out my lending library and got rid of almost 1/3 of the books.
Ask yourself these three questions
#1 Does it teach a valuable lesson that’s applicable to what we do here?
#2 Do I think my students would enjoy this book?
#3 Do I enjoy this book?
If it didn’t hit all three points, I got rid of it.
So, choose wisely.
New books can be quite expensive and while they are a business expense, they can add up quickly! I have two tips to help you watch your expense output while building your lending library.
#1 Don’t feel rushed
If you are just getting started, don’t feel like you have to go out and purchase them all at once. Maybe start with 3-5 books so students have a few options, then keep the rest on a “wish list”. Plan on purchasing 1-2 new ones each year or whatever your budget will allow.
#2 Buy used
Amazon, eBay, and other online used booksellers make it easy to purchase gently used books. If you don’t mind a little wear, used books can really add up the savings. Most of the time, used books can be in quite good shape.
On eBay, you can actually save your searches so it will notify you when that item comes up for sale.
If you’re on my email list, you heard me share a little about how I currently handle checkouts for my lending library back in October’s “Secret Letter”.
(If you’re not on my email list, you can sign up here.)
For years, I kept a clipboard and pen next to the books with a simple spreadsheet. Students would write down their name, the name of the book, and the date they checked it out.
The main difficulty with this is that younger students struggle to fill out the sheet on their own.
This past year, I transitioned to taking a picture of the student with their book of choice. Because my lessons are back to back, I would tell them that as soon as they made their choice, to come back in the room and hold it up so I could take a quick picture. This way I don’t have to stand and wait on them to make a selection and I can get my next lesson moving.
When they return the book, I will take a photo again which is my reminder to go back and delete the first photo (and subsequently the return photo) so I know the book has been returned.
This method has really worked quite well for me as long as you’re diligent about deleting the checkout photo when they return the book.
You could also look into a lending library app but I have not tried any of these myself and thus don’t feel I can speak to them. It could be a good idea though if that’s something you want to look into!
My Favorite Piano-Themed Children’s Books
The first two books in this list are actually not piano-themed but I love them and felt they were worth including.
The rest are listed in alphabetical order. In order to save time in the creation of this post, I have simply copied extracts from the book descriptions on Amazon.
All of the books are available and are linked to Amazon. A few are also available at and linked to Sheet Music Plus as well.
Crumpet the Trumpet by Kristine Papillon
This sweet story is an absolute HIT with anyone who reads it.
My local music store carried it several years ago. Unfortunately, it’s not readily available online. You can contact them directly from the website to purchase but other than it’s not available anywhere else I can find.
Here’s a video of the same story available on the author’s YouTube channel.
Molly and the Sword by Robert Shlasko
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
“One day, a bear cub finds something strange and wonderful in the forest. When he touches the keys, they make a horrible noise. Yet he is drawn back again and again. Eventually, he learns to play beautiful sounds, delighting his woodland friends…
This gorgeously illustrated tale of following one’s dreams reminds us of the value of friendship wherever we go.”
The Bear, the Piano, the Dog, and the Fiddle
This heartfelt tale reminds us that there are many different kinds of success, and it celebrates the joy and healing powers of music and friendship.”
The Bear, the Piano, and Little Bear’s Concert
The final book in the award-winning, best-selling trilogy shows that while fame and fortune might be temporary, the best songs stay in your heart forever.”
Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbar Nichol
“Correspondence between a young boy and his music-student uncle chronicles the upheaval in Christoph’s household caused by the arrival of an eccentric, difficult, and deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, the new upstairs tenant.”
Bosco and Kitty’s Piano Magic by Robert Pace
“This lavishly illustrated storybook introduces the very young child to the basic notion that musical sounds can be either high or low, soft or loud, slow or fast, or combined in various ways. These musical concepts are explored via the “Twins” and “Triplets” groups of two and three black keys to develop the tactile, aural, and visual awareness prerequisite to all further music learning. Encourages kids to think in motion, deal with several concepts simultaneously, and be creative.”
Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle and Rafael López
This was one of my newest discoveries and one I, unfortunately, missed grabbing for the post photo.
As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.
Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?”
Freddie the Frog and the Thump in the Night (1st Adventure: Treble Clef Island) by Sharon Burch
“Freddie the frog explores Treble Clef Island and discovers two big adventures- one from the inside of a crocodile! The treble clef staff comes alive as a map of where Freddie lives. Various lines and spaces represent each part of the story. Introduces 4- to 9-year-olds to six treble clef notes in a captivating way! The CD includes the story narration as well as two bonus sing-along tracks.”
Freddie the Frog and the Bass Clef Monster by Sharon Burch (2nd Adventure: Bass Clef Monster) by Sharon Burch
“Freddie awakens from hibernation to discover he is not on his beloved Treble Clef Island. Freddie’s search for home leads him through Frog Land, a strange place full of bizarre creatures, all pointing him to the Bass Clef Monster who “loves frogs.”… As in the first book/CD, the lines and spaces represent a map of this eerie adventure, and the sound effects and music bring it to life…”
P.S. If I had to do it again, I don’t know if I would purchase the Freddie the Frog books again simply for the fact that the way they teach note names is in a different way than I do. It doesn’t exactly fit with the landmark approach, but it’s still a fun story for students who know their note names already.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue by Anna Harwell Celenza
“George Gershwin only has a few weeks to compose a concerto. His piece is supposed to exemplify American music and premiere at a concert entitled “An Experiment in Modern Music.” Homesick for New York while rehearsing for a musical in Boston, he soon realizes that American music is much like its people, a great melting pot of sounds, rhythms, and harmonies. JoAnn Kitchel’s illustrations capture the 1920s in all their art-deco majesty.”
Henry the Steinway: A Star is Born by Sally Coveleskie and Peter Goodrich
Henry the Steinway Tours the World by Sally Coveleskie and Peter Goodrich
Henry the Steinway and the Piano Recital
“Spring is in the air, and the annual piano recital is only a week away! How will our young pianist learn her music in time? This delightful tale introduces Ana and her special friend Henry the Steinway—a grandfatherly piano who speaks to her! Ana learns from Henry that she must first hear the music. Then, she must find the music in her heart. Soon, Ana’s tears of frustration turn to pure joy as she delights in the playing of her music and her new friendship with Henry the Steinway. This story will resonate with piano students and piano lovers of all ages! A wonderful book that teaches kids about practice, concentration, and fortitude.”
Lulu’s Piano Lesson by Arlene Alda
“Who wants to practice the piano? Certainly not Lulu. She’d rather listen to her swing squeak, the bell on her bike ring, or the apples thump as she climbs a tree. Even her shoes play a tip-tap tune as she runs on the sidewalk.
Before she knows it, it’s Friday afternoon and time for her piano lesson. Lulu’s heart sinks. She hasn’t practiced all week. Luckily, Lulu’s teacher knows how to inspire his small student. A musician herself, Arlene Alda played the clarinet in the Houston Symphony. She understands how one little girl’s imagination and a wise teacher can help us all discover the music around us and the fun of expressing that music on the piano.”
Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by Robert Andrew Parker
“Regardless of whether they’ve heard of jazz or Art Tatum, young readers will appreciate how Parker uses simple, lyrical storytelling and colorful, energetic ink-and-wash illustrations to show the world as young Art Tatum might have seen it. Tatum came from modest beginnings and was nearly blind, but his passion for the piano and his acute memory for any sound that he heard drove him to become a virtuoso who was revered by both classical and jazz pianists alike.”
Polly and the Piano by Carol Montparker
As I was writing this post, I came across a couple of more books that I’ve added to my own wish list:
Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed by Leslea Newman
Moshe Cotel was a composer who lived in a noisy building on a noisy street in a noisy city. But Moshe didn’t mind. Everything he heard was music to his ears. One day, while out for a walk, he heard a small, sad sound that he’d never heard before. It was a tiny kitten! “Come on, little Ketzel,” Moshe said, “I will take you home, and we will make beautiful music together.” And they did—in a most surprising way. Inspired by a true story, Lesléa Newman and Amy June Bates craft an engaging tale of a creative man and the beloved cat who brings unexpected sweet notes his way.”
The Music of Life by Elizabeth Rusch
“Bartolomeo Cristofori coaxes just the right sounds from the musical instruments he makes. Some of his keyboards can play piano, light and soft; others make forte notes ring out, strong and loud, but Cristofori longs to create an instrument that can be played both soft and loud.
His talent has caught the attention of Prince Ferdinando de Medici, who wants his court to become the musical center of Italy. The prince brings Cristofori to the noisy city of Florence, where the goldsmiths’ tiny hammers whisper tink, tink, and the blacksmiths’ big sledgehammers shout BANG, BANG! Could hammers be the key to the new instrument?
At last, Cristofori gets his creation just right. It is called the pianoforte, for what it can do. All around the world, people young and old can play the most intricate music of their lives, thanks to Bartolomeo Cristofori’s marvelous creation: the piano.”
One Final Tip
Some books come with paper covers on them. I always remove them so they don’t get damaged and keep them all permanently stored away in a large Ziploc bag.
I hope you and your students enjoy building your own piano-themed lending library!
Do you have any favorite piano-themed children’s books you love that I didn’t mention in this list? I would love to hear them! Please share in the comments!