International Jazz Day: Seven Books that Celebrate Jazz

Music transcends language and culture, letting its listeners be united by something beyond words. That is why UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designated April 30th to be International Jazz Day. This day serves to highlight jazz’s “diplomatic role in uniting people in all corners of the globe.”

Celebrate International Jazz Day with these seven books about Jazz from LEE & LOW BOOKS: 

Jazz collection (2)


Rent Party Jazz, written by William Miller and illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb – Sonny Comeaux has to work in order to help his mother make ends meet. Mama loses her job, and Sonny is worried: How will they make the rent? A jazz musician named Smilin’ Jack helps Sonny have the world’s best party, and raise the rent money in the process. Buy here.


i see the rhythm, written by Toyomi Igus and illustrated by Michele Wood – This book is a visual and poetic introduction to the history of African American music, including Jazz music. Buy here.


Jazz Baby, written by Carole Boston and illustrated by Laura Freeman – This book is a celebration of music and movement. This story in verse is inspired by the riffs, rhythms, and freedom of jazz. Buy here.


Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison – This award-winning biography follows the life of legendary jazz trombonist, composer, and arranger Melba Liston. At the age of 7, Melba fell in love with the trombone. Later, she broke racial and gender barriers tobecome a famed trombone player and arranger, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs for all the jazz greats of the twentieth century: Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones, to name just a few. Buy here.


Sweet Music in Harlem, written by Debbie Taylor and illustrated by Frank Morrison – C.J. needs to act fast. A photographer from Highnote magazine is on his way to take a picture of his Uncle Click, a well-known jazz musician. But Uncle Click’s signature hat is missing! C.J. must find it before the photo shoot. Buy here.


Rainbow Joe and Me, by Maria Diaz Strom – Eloise likes colors and so does her friend, Rainbow Joe. Since Rainbow Joe is blind, Eloise tells him about the colors she mixes and the fantastic animals she paints. Rainbow Joe tells Eloise that he can also mix and paint colors. Buy here.


Ray Charles, written by Sharon Bell Mathis and illustrated by George Ford – This award-winning biography follows the life of world-renowned jazz and blues musician Ray Charles. It includes a new introduction by author Sharon Bell Mathis and updates his life to the present day. Buy here.


Purchase the collection here.


Further Reading:

The Little Melba Playlist: A Jazz Music Primer from Frank Morrison

Celebrate Music in Our Schools Month with Drum-Inspired Books

Interview: Katheryn Russell-Brown on the research behind Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Illustrator Frank Morrison takes us behind the art of Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Outdoor Concerts!

Video Thursday: Happy Birthday, Ray Charles


More Resources:

Jazz Up Writing Workshop: Writing Biographies of African American Jazz Musicians

About International Jazz Day


Bonus:

Melba Liston playing with Quincy Jones’s band in Switzerland

Ray Charles playing “America the Beautiful”

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