Country Music Youth Reading List

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COUNTRY MUSIC is a uniquely American art form that has deep roots in ballads, blues and hymns that evolved from small rural and mountain settings in the South and West during the 20th century. In many ways, this music has become known to Americans through the stories and music of artists like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and many others.

In September 2019, PBS will debut the documentary film “Country Music.” Directed and produced by Ken Burns, this film is an eight-part, 16 hour documentary series that explores the evolution of country music, while focusing on the biographies of fascinating characters and their unforgettable stories. While the complementary “Country Music” book by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan will release this September, PBS Books has compiled a list of books for you to explore your child’s curiosity in “Country Music.”

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Barn Dance by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault / Illustrated by Ted Rand
Ages 4-8

A classic Reading Rainbow book from the late 1980s, the authors cleverly write in rhyme using verse that mimics a rhythm. On a full moon night, all the farmyard animals gather at the barn for a barn dance with a foot stompin’ party and a scarecrow playing the fiddle. A young boy from the farmhouse hears the music from his bedroom window and goes to the barn to join in the fun. They danced all night doing the “do-si-do,” until the hooting owl announces that “Morn’ Comin’ Closer.” The boy returns to him bedroom and falls into bed.
The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music by Bret Bertholf
Ages 9-12

Written and illustrated by country-western singer Bret Bertholf, this book offers a humorous, folksy narrative of how and why country music started in the rural barns and back country of America. Betholf highlights country music instruments, the importance of the radio in the music’s development, early recordings, how to yodel, the impact of the Great Depression, and the influence of other types of music including gospel. With cleverness and wit, this book provides a lot of historical information in the midst of fun pictures of paper doll cowboys and caricatures of country stars. It is certainly a fun read, and not to be missed!
Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country and Western Music by Holly George-Warren/ Illustrated by Laura Levine
Ages 7-11

This 32-page book provides a wonderful introduction to Country and Western Music; it highlights the origin of the music, its musicians, and its culture. Overall, this book focuses on the lives of charismatic country music pioneers including: The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe, Bob Wills, Kitty Wells, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and Johnny Cash. This fun book inspires one to listen to music by some of the greatest country music.
Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton / Illustrated by Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Ages 4-8

Country-singer legend Dolly Parton shares with young readers in this picture book about her modest upbringing in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee utilizing the lyrics of her classic song “Coat of Many Colors.” In this poetic story, a young girl needs a warm coat because the winter is coming, and her mother sews her a coat from colorful old rags. Despite the fact that she is made fun of by her classmates for being poor. Dolly’s positive attitude shines through as the girl realizes that every stitch of her coat was made with love.
Lorraine: The Girl who Sang the Storm Away by Keith Secor / Illustrated by Higgins Bond
Ages 5-10

Author Ketch Secor, who is the founder of the Old Crow Medicine Show and a Grammy award-winning musician, writes a heart-warming epic American story about Tennessean girl named Lorraine and her Grandpa Pa Paw. With gorgeous illustrations, this book showcases the power of music and family as Lorraine plays her pennywhistle alongside her Pa Paw, who plays his harmonica. As their instruments mysteriously disappear and a treacherous weather comes, Lorraine finds her voice as she sings and dances through the scary storm. Clearly, music helps them through hard times and highlights the importance of country music.
Passing the Music Down by Sarah Sullivan/Illustrated by Barry Root
Ages 6-10

Told in a poetic narrative, this book tells a story of a young boy who travels to the Appalachian Mountains to hear a legendary fiddler, who is an old-time miner. Throughout the book, the fiddler passes down the tradition of country music to the boy; Sullivan celebrates musical apprenticeship, mentorship, and intergenerational friendship. This book was inspired by the true story of Melvin Wine and Jake Krack.
Cool Country Music: Create & Appreciate What Makes Music Great! (Cool Music) by Mary Lindeen
Ages 6-10

This book provides a straightforward introduction to Country Music by exploring its origins, its many styles–Western Swing, Bluegrass, Honky- tonk, Rockabilly and Country Rock, Tex-Mex, and Alternative Rock–and Country instruments. The author provides a list of important Country Music stars, groups, and songs. It discusses various ways fans experience country music. Adding a creative twist to this book, the author provides step- by-step instructions on how to make your own banjo and write a Country song.

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