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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Teen Read Week Books with a Beat

I got a great question from Jenny in Colfax, looking for books related to Teen Read Week's theme: Books with a Beat. There wasn't much in terms of booklists on the YALSA website, so I made my own. I thought Jenny maybe isn't the only one looking for titles, so I am posting the list here:


Audrey, Wait! By Robin Benway
Audrey’s ex-boyfriend writes a hit-song about her after they break up.

The New Policeman and The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson
Irish music and dance, Tir na nOg—the land of the fairies, and much humor in these books.

Beige. By Cecil Castellucci.
Katy reluctantly leaves Montréal to spend time with her estranged father, an aging Los Angeles punk rock legend.

Good Enough. By Paula Yoo.
Patti Yoon, a Korean American girl, tries to please her parents by doing her best to get into YaleHarvardPrinceton, but she is distracted by a boy and by her passion for the violin.

Born to Rock. By Gordon Korman
High school senior Leo Caraway, a conservative Republican, learns that his biological father is a punk rock legend.

Yellow Flag. By Robert Lipsyte.
When Kyle reluctantly succumbs to family pressure and takes over driving the family racecar, he struggles to keep up with his trumpet playing.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.
Nick, member of a rock band, meets Norah and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to avoid his ex-sweetheart.

Candor. By Pam Bachorz.
The teens in Candor are all model citizens, due to the subliminal messages played in the ever-present, piped-in music. Except the Mayor’s son, who uses his inside information for his own purposes.

Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free. By Kathleen Karr.
Inmates of a 1900s women’s prison stage a production of Pirates of Penzance. Based on a true story.


The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, with music composed by Nathaniel Stookey, illustrated by Carson Ellis, performed by the San Francisco Symphony.
This is a hilarious introduction to the orchestra, with humor that will appeal to teens, great music, and useful information.

The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth. By Jaime Adoff
A collection of poems about music and musicians.

Punk Rock Etiquette: The Ultimate How-To Guide for DIY, Punk, Indie, and Underground Bands, by Travis Nichols
Graphic novel format, informative, and hilarious.

John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth. By Elizabeth Partridge.
Highly acclaimed biography of the Beatles legend.

This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie. By Elizabeth Partridge.
Fascinating reading, even for people who aren’t fans of this folk hero’s music.

Meet the Musicians: From Prodigy (or Not) to Pro. By Amy Nathan.
Profiles of members of the New York Philharmonic.

Rock and Roll Soldier: A Memoir. By Dean Ellis Kohler and Susan VanHecke.
During the Vietnam War, Kohler was asked by his captain to form a rock and roll band to keep up morale of his unit.

We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World. By Stuart Stotts, with an introduction by Pete Seeger.
Slim book that introduces the backstory of this powerful song.


  1. In case anyone is interested in some further reading on the subject, I put together a similar list for a YA class in grad school:

    Armstrong, Jennifer. What a Song can do : 12 Riffs on the Power of Music. New York: Knopf,

    Brothers, Meagan. Debbie Harry Sings in French. New York: Henry Holt, 2008.

    Carey, Percy. Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm . New York: Vertigo, 2008.

    Denman, Karen. Battle of the Bands . Victoria, B.C.: Orca Book Publishers, 2006.

    Myers, Walter Dean. Harlem Summer . New York: Scholastic Press, 2007.

    Shakur, Tupac. The Rose that Grew from Concrete . New York: Pocket Books, 1999.

    Wolff, Virginia Euwer. The Mozart Season . New York: Holt, 1991.

    Yolen, Jane, and Adam Stemple. Pay the Piper : A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale. New York:
    Starscape, 2005.

    Zephaniah, Benjamin. Gangsta Rap . New York: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2004.

  2. And I second the recommendation for the John Lennon bio. It's great, and has TONS of cool photos to draw in hi/lo readers.