Picture Books for Upper Elementary

Hi everyone! This is Aileen from Mrs. Miracle's Music Room. I've blogged quite a bit about picture books for the music room (see those posts here), but today I thought I'd focus on picture books that can be used with upper elementary, since they can be harder to come by!

Here are some of my favorites...I'm planning on posting about some more soon! Click on each picture to view it on Amazon or Alibis.

"If you find a Rock"
by Lember and Christian

I found this picture book a few years ago, and immediately thought that it would work really well with "Obwisana," which you can find here. It is such a beautiful book, with poetic language and higher level prose.

"Before John as a Jazz Giant"
 by Weatherford and Qualls
I'm a big jazz fan, so was super excited to find this book! What a great way to incorporate jazz into your lessons and teach a little history! I plan on using this soon, and am thinking of playing John Coltrane as I read the book.

"The Drums of Noto Hanto" 
by James and Tsukushi
Based on a true story in ancient Japan, this book is a wonderful way to introduce taiko drumming to your students. I've read this book to my 4th graders (and even created a program based off the book and had them act it out) and they were actively engaged and excited! You could read it before a taiko or bucket drumming unit, or before a taiko drumming listening lesson.

"Marching to the Civil War: Drummer Boy" 
by Turner and Hess

I really love this book as a way to delve into the song "Fire in the mountain," which you can see below:

To play the game, one student stands in the middle, playing the drum to the beat. Half of the students stand, and half of the students sit. As the drummer plays, the standing students walk around the circle. Whenever the drummer stops (halfway through the song, at the end of the song, halfway through the second time...whenever!) all the standing students have to find someone to stand behind. The drummer also has to find someone, so one person is left without someone to stand behind (much like musical chairs.) Then, that person becomes the drummer, and the sitting students stand, the standing students sit, and the game continues.

The song is actually about the Revolutionary War, but the book is a great connection about what drummer boys had to do. I will warn you...it is a sad book with very real sentiments, as the drummer boy laments about the sounds of war, and about his friends who have died. I have had to be careful to not get choked up as a I read it to students. That being said, I think it is a great book for students to read, as it gives them perspective about how much life has changed over the years, and gives them some historical context behind a song they love.

Looking for more picture book ideas? Here is one of my Pinterest boards, focused on picture books:

What are your favorite picture books for upper elementary? Feel free to comment below!

1 comment

  1. Thank you for the great suggestions! I also like to use The First Strawberry, a Joseph Bruchac native American tale with music by R. Carlos Nakai playing in the background.


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