A thousand years ago," Roth (Hard Hat Area) begins, "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." Italy's Guido d'Arezzo (990-circa 1050) changed all that with a system of musical notation that allowed people to read music much as they read words in a book. Roth tells the story of d'Arezzo's invention con brio, portraying him as a misunderstood, driven and ingenious hero-with the sympathetic ear of just one lone monk. He had to buck the status quo ("What would I do all day if children could learn songs without me?" says Guido's teacher) and he used many sheets of parchment noodling out the system that finally-and brilliantly-translated music into staves, clefs and notes. Roth's na f collages, populated by doll-like figures, quickly shoo away any misgivings that music history could be a bore, and make a marvelous counterpoint for her carefully researched prose. Music lovers will appreciate the visual riff at the bottom of the spreads, which emulates the five lines of the musical staff. When Guido finally proves that his invention works (as the children's choirmaster, he asks them to sight-read a piece of music), his triumph resounds through the ages. And his story is certain to capture the imagination of any budding musician. Ages 5-8. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Although there has always been music, up to a thousand years ago there was no way to write it down for others to read. Memorizing was the only way to learn and pass along music. While he was still young in Tuscany, young Guido of Arezzo thought there ought to be a better way. Later, living with monks in Pamplona and encouraged by Brother Michael, Guido begins collecting letters, numbers, and symbols, trying to figure out a way. But the other monks there are not interested. When Guido returns to Arezzo, he tries to explain his system and asks for a chance to try it out. To the amazement of all the teachers, he teaches the children in the choir to read the music he writes down. The notation we use today is based on Guido's system. Roth various kinds of papers to visualize this simply told tale. She cuts and tears, then assembles the pieces, as much for their emotional impact as their factual information. Guido has an unruly head of reddish hair, which adds a lighthearted touch to his white monk's robe. Five lines of unevenly cut variegated papers run across the bottoms of the pages until they finally become the staff lines of a score. The carefully designed pages emphasize the powerful force of Guido's obsession along with the sprightly text. There is a wealth of additional information as well, including a glossary, bibliography, and extensive notes.
Children's Literature - Jeanne K. Pettenati J.D.
One thousand years ago, choirmasters taught children to memorize songs. They didn't teach them to read music, because a way to read music didn't exist. If a song was forgotten, it could be gone forever. A child singing long ago in a small Italian city thought how easy it would be to learn songs if only music could be read. That child was Guido d'Arezzo. For many years, he persisted in his quest to find a way to write music, despite steady opposition. He searched for a way to write music so that it could be read universally, and for many years, he was rebuffed. Choirmasters dug their heels in; what was wrong with memorizing songsthat was the way it had been done for hundreds of years, they claimed. Additionally, choirmasters were afraid of losing their jobs if songs could be "read." Guido d'Arezzo countered that choirmasters would not lose their jobs; their jobs would only be different. With lovely paper collages, the colorful artwork depicts d'Arezzo putting his thoughts and efforts to work over a lengthy period of time before developing his system. His epiphany came when he connected pitches, which go in order from low to high, with lines and spaces. He showed others how each line and each space represented a unique pitch. By this time, d'Arezzo had an audience and the support he desired. The pope even invited d'Arezzo to live in Rome after he learned how to read music! Children will be amazed to learn that d'Arezzo used the "do-re-mi-fa-sol-la syllables from parts of the poem he set to music a thousand years ago." The illustrations evoke a Tuscany of that era, with cypress trees on verdant hills and noble churches with bell towers. Guido and the choristers are dressed in longblack or white robes. Each page weaves lines and spaces into its picture. And each page features fragments from sheets of music woven into the design, to great effect. The engaging prose and textured paper collages combine to make this picture book an outstanding selection for any library. Children taking music lessons would be especially interested in Guido's story. An author's note at the back of the book provides additional details about d'Arezzo's life. There is a glossary of musical terms, a reproduction of his "autograph," and a select bibliography. There is also a foreword by Angelo Mafucci, a noted choral director and music teacher from Arezzo, the town in Tuscany where Guido was born.
School Library Journal
Working in the early 11th century, d'Arezzo is widely credited with having formulated the system of musical notation. This fictionalized picture book tells an abbreviated version of his story, following him from a boyhood in the choir to various monasteries to his eventual achievement. The emphasis is on his perseverance as he struggles to develop a system for "writing down the sounds of a song," and to convince the musical establishment of the benefits of being able to read, rather than memorize, music. The language is simple and intimate, fabricating conversations and thoughts that d'Arezzo and his medieval fellows real. The large-font text moves clearly across the cut- and torn-paper (and the occasional photo) collages that fill the spreads with wonderful colors and fibers. The slightly simplified forms lend a kind of cheery awkwardness and individuality to the characters. The stylized artwork ranges from close-ups to mini-frames to broad landscapes that subtly incorporate d'Arezzo's staff. While the narrative does a good job of explaining the significance of d'Arrezo's innovation, it sometimes oversimplifies matters and gives a sense that he was flying completely solo rather than building on ideas already around. In the actual explication of his system, the glossary has to do the heavy lifting. The book's format is young, but much of its content-including an author's note-is aimed at an older audience with some musical background. This is an attractive if flawed introduction to a little-covered figure.
Nancy PalmerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Roth offers the story of the first written music for young readers. A thousand years ago in Tuscany, a young singer named Guido d'Arezzo gets the bright idea that members of the choir would be able to learn the music better if they were somehow able to see the sounds. His choirmaster pooh-poohs the notion and Guido goes to live with a community of monks in Pomposa, still gripped by his idea. There, a monk named Brother Michael encourages his parchment scribbles, even bringing him back from the brink of despair. When Guido returns to his home city, new bishop Teodaldo puts him in charge of the children's choir, and he uses his new system to teach them to read music. Hearing of this success, the Pope invites him to Rome, but Guido humbly declines: "I am Guido of Arezzo." Roth's ingenious and intricate illustrations, made of papers "from all over the world," constitute a unique vocabulary themselves. A sublime blend of education and entertainment. (glossary, bibliography) (Picture book. 7-10)
From the Publisher
A sublime blend of education and entertainment.
An appealing, accessible, and throught-provoking introduction to a rarely covered subject.
"Roth's naif collages, populated by doll-like figures, quickly shoo away any misgivings that music history could be a bore, and make a marvelous counterpoint for her carefully researched prose." Publishers Weekly
"The language is simple and intimate. . .wonderful colors and fibers. . .attractive."
School Library Journal
"A gifted author-illustrator offers a lovely picture book...Her collage illustrations are always interesting." Buffalo News
Roth winningly narrates the ups and downs of Guido's efforts to work out his ideas and get them accepted. But it's the illustrations that really make the book sing: torn-paper collages wittily celebrating musical marks everywhere, from the staff lines of plowed furrows and stripey sunset clouds to the O-shaped mouths of chanting monks.
The Washington Post
"It's edgy and childlike at the same time, a quirky approach to a quirky subject." The San Francisco Chronicle