Post Author
Alison Gowans

June 10, 2024 – Amber Hansen is more than a singer-songwriter – she's also a music teacher at Prairie Hill Elementary in the College Community School District. She'll combine those two worlds in "Song's for My Students" on Monday, June 17, bringing music she wrote for kids to the library. Before her show, we asked her to share some of her favorite books for kids – and most of them feature music. 

Browse her book list below, with her explanations of why she chose each title. Then see her free June 17 performances at the library. Shows will be 10-11 am and 1-2 pm at the Downtown Library and 3:30-4:30 pm at Ladd Library. All performances are first-come, first-serve; wrist bands will be handed out one hour prior to each performance. 


"Coat of Many Colors" by Dolly Parton, illustrated by Brooke Boyton-Hughes

A beautifully written song turned into a lovely picture book. My son got his copy through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (a wonderful program that sends books to children from birth to age five. Cedar Rapids Public Library has more information about signing up for this amazing program.)

"The Story Orchestra" series, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle 

There are about seven of these beautifully illustrated books. Each takes the story of a classical piece of music or creates a story centered around the piece of music. Each page has a snippet of the greater work that can be played while the story is told. The final page of the book has important historical information about each composer and piece of music. 

"Giraffes Can’t Dance" by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

This was the first book I read to my son. It has such a lovely message, and the cricket is very wise. There are some animated versions that can be found online that add music to the story. 

"Remarkable Farkle McBride" by John Lithgow

This book is a somewhat silly, yet informative book about the families of the orchestra. John Lithgow creates an immersive story about instruments: what they sound like and look like. The accompanying recording of Lithgow reading the story adds an important musical dimension.

"Peter and the Wolf" by Sergi Prokofiev & "Carnival of the Animals" by Camille Saint Sans

Both are classical pieces of music that have been used in various picture books over the last hundred years. Both are considered an excellent introduction to classical music and instruments of the orchestra. 

"Because" by Mo Willems, illustrated by Amber Ren

This book brought me to tears the first time I read it. From an educator standpoint you never know what dreams you’re inspiring or nurturing. It is a lovely story about the chain of events that lead a little girl to her adult profession. Because of someone, something, some event her life is changed. 

First three "Pete the Cat" stories by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean: "I Love My White Shoes," "Rocking in My School Shoes," & "Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons"

These books have great rhythm and rhyme. They have a repetitive chorus which makes them great for early readers because they know what to expect and can sing along. The melodies are accessible for all kids and adults. They also have a great message for littles learning to cope with change.