The First Notes: The Story of Do, Re, Mi by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, illustrated by Chiara Fedele

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary:  It’s hard to imagine music without written notes, but that was the world Guido d’Arezzo lived in at the beginning of the eleventh century.  He loved the music of his monastery, but the monks had to laboriously practice long hours to master each piece.  One day, Guido realized that the songs were made up of just five tones.  He named them from the first two letters of each line of a favorite song: ut, re, mi, fa, sol, and la (ut became do and ti was added many years later).  The other monks were unimpressed, but Guido later found a more receptive audience at a cathedral where he led the choir, and eventually with Pope John XIX.  Do-re-mi spread, eventually leading to the famous song from The Sound of Music, an illustrated version of which is included at the end of the book.  Also includes a glossary and additional information about Guido d’Arezzo and the song “Do-Re-Mi”.  48 pages, ages 4-8.

Pros:  Aww, a book about do-re-mi by Julie Andrews and her daughter!  It’s a pretty fascinating and well-told tale about something that many of us take for granted.  The illustrations made me want to go live in a medieval Benedictine monastery, no easy feat.

Cons:  Look closely at the cover or you might think, as I did at first, that it’s Maria von Trapp, not Brother Guido, singing and dancing his way through the mountains.

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