The First Notes: The Story of Do, Re, Mi
Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, Authors
Chiara Fedele, Illustrator
Little, Brown, Fiction, Nov. 1, 2022
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Themes: Guido d’Arezzo, Music, Musical notation, Monk, History
Opening: “A thousand years ago, in the small community of Pomposa, Italy, a boy named Guido was sent to a monastery to begin his schooling. In those days, a monastery was considered the best place to receive an education. The monks who lived and taught there were studious and wise.”
Imagine a time very long ago, when music couldn’t be written or read and could only be learned from live performances. A monk named Guido d’Arezzo dreamed of finding a way to write music as words are written in books, so that people far and wide could read and learn melodies. With creativity, passion, and perseverance, one humble man invented a way to share music across the world.
Beloved musical icon Julia Andrews and bestselling author Emma Walton Hamilton introduce readers to the remarkable true tale of the first notes — Do, Re, Mi Fa, Sol, La, and Ti — enhanced with lush illustrations, fascinating historical facts and an exuberant visual celebration of the classic song “Do-Re-Mi.”
What I love about The First Notes;
The First Notes: The Story of Do, Re,Mi is a pitch-perfect collaboration for Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. It is a joyful and charming book for both children and adults. The text is lyrical with rich imagery and is supported by Chiara Fedele’s breathtaking watercolor and gonauache illustrations, which are lush and colorful. And take a good look at the gorgeous book cover of Guido.
Guido was a curious student who studied Latin, astronomy and mathematics. But his real love was music and he wanted to learn everything he could so he could teach others . He was one of those unique souls who heard music around him — in the chanting voices of the monks, in the clip-clop of donkey hooves, and in every aspect of nature.. A century ago, music was passed down by listening, memorizing and practicing. One day he made an important discovery. The other monks thought he was foolish. You’ll have to read the story to find out about his creative process to write a musical scale that others could read.
How much we take for granted. I was a serious pianist and sang in choirs years ago. I studied musical theory and history, but I never thought about the origins of musical notation and who actually created the scales. Of course someone had to create a musical scale, and it was an 11th century Italian monk, who was somewhat a revolutionary.
Guido’s moving story belongs in school libraries as part of a musical curriculum. It is perfect for children who are learning to read music, sing in choirs and play instruments. Adults who love music and enjoy picture book biographies will find this book a gem, as well as fans of The Sound of Music.The ending will have readers singing the Rodgers and Hammerstein song, “Do-Re-Mi.” The First Notes is a perfect gift book.
There is a note from the authors to the reader at the start of the book. The end of the book has A Note About the Song Do-Re-Mi, a Glossary, A Day in Guido’s Life at Pomposa Abbey, The Guidonian Hand, and A Historical Note that reveals exactly what is known about Guido’s life.
Resources: Sing the song “Do-Re-Mi” with children. Show them a simple musical scale and name the notes.
Julie Andrews’s legendary career encompasses the Broadway and London stages, as well as multiple films, television shows, album releases, concert tours, directing assignments, and the world of children’s publishing. In 2000 the title of Dame Commander of the British Empire was bestowed upon her by Queen Elizabeth II for lifetime achievements in the arts and humanities. Her many other honors include a Kennedy Center honor in the fall of 2001. She was married to film director Blake Edwards for forty-one years, and the couple have five children, ten grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Emma Walton Hamilton is an award-winning writer, producer and arts educator. Together with her mother, Julie Andrews, she has written over thirty books for children and young adults, including the New York Times bestselling Very Fairy Princess series. Emma is on the faculty of Stony Brook University’s MFA in Creative Writing, where she serves as director of the Children’s Lit Fellows and the Young Artists and Writers Project..
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Reviewed from a purchased copy..
12 thoughts on “The First Notes: The Story of DO, RE, MI by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton”
I’ll need to check this out! I’ve wondered about who standardized musical notations (and now I’m wondering about musical notations that originated elsewhere…like the East, Africa, etc…and how they accepted, or not, the Western notations. 🙂
You pose some interesting questions. I wonder about Asia and Africa too. It is an inspiring book!
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I heard the interview on NPR and was fascinated by the history and the process. I bought the book. It is wonderful!
I am glad to know you enjoyed the book! I saw them interviewed on ABC. The Youtube video I linked to. NPR was probably a lot more indepth. Can’t imagine the research they did.
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Julie Andrews and her daughter write such lovely books. This one looks so wonderful.
It is a perfect gift book for anyone who love music! Gorgeous illustrations.
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How wonderful! I love books that show us how people look (or in this case hear) the world in a novel (to me) way. And I look forward to learning more about this important contribution to our world.
You can tell that a lot of research and heart went into writing this beautiful PB. Such a wonderful discovery for many of us!
What a perfect pair to write this story! Now I’ve got to go find a copy!
I am delighted that they were able to discover so much information about Guido. And they are the perfect pair to present this information to school children, teachers and parents. Beautiful book!
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Fascinating story behind the story kind of book. I’ve enjoyed Julie Andrews and her daughter’s previous titles and will for sure take a look at this new one. Thanks for sharing.
Glad you enjoyed the review. It really is a treasure of information for musical curriculums. The text is lyrical and the illustrations are so warm and beautiful!