Do Re Mi — Perfect Picture Book Friday

For the first PPBF in Behind the Scenes Month, we’re going behind the scenes in the creation of musical notation.

Title: Do Re Mi : If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo

Author: Susan L. Roth, in association with Angelo Mafucci

Illustrator:  Susan L. Roth

Publisher: New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006

Genre: Picture book, historical fiction

Audience Age: 6-10 years (Barnes and Noble says 8-10)

Theme: music history, musical notation, determination, creativity,

Opening Sentences: A thousand years ago, if you heard a song and wanted to hear it again, you would have to remember it by heart. If you forgot the song, it could be lost forever.

Synopsis: A thousand years ago, all song was learned by memory. Choirs were taught by repeating the lines sung to them by the choir master. In Tuscany, young Guido of Arezzo learned in the same way, but he dreamed of making a way to write music down. At that time, the words could be written, but there was no way to write down the notes, the sounds of a song. When Guido became an adult, he worked at his quest to develop a way to write music, although he met with much resistance. He was determined, and imaginative, and he moved from place to place, studying music, trying out different systems of notation. Finally, he developed the system of lines and spaces that we still use, all over the world, today. Gradually he was able to convince others of the value of this, and so, as the subtitle of this book says, “If you can read music, thank Guido d’Arezzo.”

Activities/Resources: There are several games for learning music notation at Wart Games.

There are tons of games, quizzes and puzzles about music at Ms. Garrett’s website, Music Tech Teacher.

Anthropolis Links has a plethora of links to music educational activities and sites for kids.

The illustrations in this book also suggest art activities, such as torn paper illustrations and mixed media collages.

In searching for torn paper art for kids, I came across a wonderful blog of art projects for kids. Bookmark this one! Art Projects for Kids

Using this method of teaching LINES through torn paper art, from Art Lessons for Kids, children could make their own musical staff and plot a song on the lines and spaces.

Availability: Readily available in hardcover.

# 16 in Perfect Picture Book Fridays. See all this week’s Perfect Picture Books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, or find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”

43 thoughts on “Do Re Mi — Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. I learned how to read music during my choir-intense days in high school. Lack of use has left me treble clefs floating in my head, vague memories of how to properly read them. I’d never really given thought to a world without sheet music so this picture book would be delightful for me as an adult learning more about this. Cool pick.

    1. I’m sure most musicians have no idea of the story behind those dots on the page in front of them. Thanks, Angela!

  2. Wow, Beth! What a fantastic idea for a book! I LOVE this! I took piano lessons for 14 years at a highly acclaimed music school where you were required to take music theory once a week in addition to your lesson, and I never knew where music notation had come from! So interesting! I am definitely going to have to look for this book. And what a great list of activities! Thanks so much for sharing this – what a great addition to our list!

    1. I’m so glad you like it so much, Susanna! I, too, have studied music — piano, violin, voice, and never once heard this story. I suspect many musicians aren’t aware of it, notation is something we just take for granted.

      I had a fantastic time finding the resources for this one!

  3. I’m loving the historical fiction section today. I enjoy learning about inventions, plus it’s an interesting story for children to learn that there was no way to write it down. It sounds funny in this day of “there’s an app for that.” Thanks for highlighting this one.

  4. I have read music since primary school and I didn’t know this history. What a great PPPF addition, Beth. It is also so interesting to remember this is pretty recent in the history of music!

  5. Oh wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really enjoyed your review and the book is such a terrific idea! What an excellent addition to the PPBF list. All the books I’ve seen featured today are wonderful. Yay!

    P.S. Your activities links are awesome. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Robyn. When I found this book I knew it was a winner. I found it fascinating reading, and it was such fun to find the resources for this!

  6. Oh, I really love this choice. I have read music since a young child and never knew who first came up with a way to write music down– not even in music theory classes. I never questioned it. I love this book is for older children. And, today, composers compose musical scores on computers. Wow. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. I’m sure most people have never questioned the notation system, we just take it for granted. I’m glad you liked it, Pat!

  7. This sounds like a wonderful book! I have a huge love for music so I know I will like it. It sounds like a great way to introduce children to the cultural side of music. And the activities you found are GREAT! I love the torn paper blog. Thanks!

    1. Doesn’t that torn paper look cool? And such fun? I’d love to be able to use this in a class. (The book, and the torn paper art.)

  8. Laura Renauld

    This sound be required reading in music history and music theory classes! Thanks for sharing a book about the life of such a brilliant spirit.

    1. I’m pretty sure most people have never thought about who made up the system. I’m sure glad he did it, though!

      Thanks, Erik!

  9. This is very interesting. I am slowly realising that I find Historical fiction something I am more leaning towards…… mmm. Maybe my writing and my thinking is heading that way.
    Treble clefts was something I did not enjoy…. luckily in my first grade music exam I didn’t come across to many of those and I passed… Thanks Beth.

    1. I used to do a little teaching-bit at the beginning of the rehearsals for a children’s choir I accompanied. I remember drawing a treble clef and asking what it was, and one little girl piped up “Mama Treble Clef!” That’s such a great way to learn that “Mama Treble Clef” is the high notes and “Papa Bass Clef” is the low notes.

      If you’re feeling a leaning towards historical fiction, go for it!

  10. I took piano lessons for what felt like several years as a child, but it turned out to only be two. Stopped for a while. Started again. Stopped again. Finally picked it up as a senior in college. Now, as my kids are reading music and learning to play instruments, I’m thankful that I had learned so many years ago. Thanks to Guido d’Arezzo and thanks Beth for sharing this book!
    A2ZMommy and What’s In Between

    1. Thanks, Tracy. I’m very sure it’s of benefit to have the musical education in your background now as you encourage and help your kids. We all owe a great deal to Guido d’Arezzo!

  11. This book looks AMAZING! I have never in my life thought about how music came to be written down. Love learning new things! Thanks, Beth!

  12. I have to look for this book – so unique! I am glad you featured it Beth.

    We were just talking with the kids about music the other day as we popped in my favorite Sir Neville Marriner Mozart horn concerto CD. Can you imagine – before music was recorded – going to a live concert might have been the ONLY time that you heard a certain piece?

    Now we must Guido d’Arezzo as well as Thomas Edison!

    1. Thanks, Cathy.

      Oh my, to think of never hearing those wonderful songs more than once — and if you didn’t live near where the composer or singer lived, you might never experience their music.

  13. Oh Beth….I loved this book! “A thousand years ago”…it always amazes me how inventions come about…mostly because there is a need and someone sees it and says, “I can do that!”
    Awesome activities and resources also…great review of a wonderful book…I am adding it to my list. 😉

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