The Enchanted Symphony by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
What’s it About?
When a lively village is beset by a mysterious fog, the town turns dull and silent; melancholy neighbors stop visiting each other and even going outside. Until one day, when a boy’s simple melody strikes a chord, reminding everyone of what matters most — even in the darkest of times.
“Piccolino lived in a small village, famous for its charms. Its people were happy and creative — singing and dancing felt as natural to them as breathing … Visitors came for miles to enjoy the village’s delights … But the busier and more prosperous [the townspeople] became, the more they lost touch with their own simple pleasures.”
From celebrating the beauty of nature to embracing the family and community that the arts can foster between us all, The Enchanted Symphony (Abrams Books for Young Readers) beckons us to see what magic we can find in our everyday lives. And who better to tell such a story than legendary actress and singer Julie Andrews?
Co-authored by Andrews’ daughter, children’s book author Emma Walton Hamilton, this gentle, tender read encourages us to nurture our creative spirits and treasure the connections we all share. And while this lesson is packaged in a picture book for ages 4-8, it’s an essential reminder for us adults, too.
Play On, Piccolino!
The son of the local orchestra’s maestro, Piccolino has been surrounded by music his entire life and has only ever known the radiant joy of village life. Things soon change for Piccolino’s town, however; a fog rolls over the rooftops, enveloping the town in a dreary lull. “People grew listless and dispirited. They stopped visiting with one another, or even going outside, and the town fell silent.”
Inside the empty opera house, Piccolino helps his father try to clear the fog away from the droopy lobby plants. He soon discovers that when he plays a tune on the piano, the wilted leaves rise, no longer overtaken by the melancholic fog. Heartened by this finding, Piccolino and his father drag more plants into the opera house and continue this experiment with positive results.
But in order to clear the fog away from the whole town, it’ll take more than just two musicians. The father and son call on the entire orchestra for an audience “that urgently [needs] their music.” And as the curtain rises to an opera house full to the brim with plants — “every seat, every box every balcony [spilling] over with greenery” — the orchestra plays a song that might just be what the town needs to banish the fog for good.
Clearing the Fog
Andrews and Hamilton credit the inspiration of The Enchanted Symphony to one poignant, striking photograph from Barcelona in 2021, just after the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organized by art director Víctor García de Gomar, artist Eugenio Ampudia and curator Blanca De La Torre, a string quartet gathered in the Gran Teatre del Liceu and performed for an audience of 2,292 plants — every one of them donated to frontline health workers of Barcelona afterward.
The two co-authors close off the book with further insight into the narrative: “While our purple fog may evoke the pandemic, to us, it symbolizes something larger: the creeping distractions that can prevent us from appreciating all that matters most. Which, for us, has always been family, community, nature and the arts.”
The Enchanted Symphony does exactly what the mother-daughter duo set out to do. Combined with Elly MacKay’s whimsical cut-paper illustrations that resemble a theatre set, the book’s evocative writing weaves a tale of triumph against the challenges in life that can keep us from inspiration and fulfillment. By paying tribute to the arts and the natural beauty all around us, Andrews and Hamilton remind us to pursue the enjoyment that creativity can offer.
Publish Date: September 12, 2023
Genre: Children’s Books
Author: Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
Page Count: 40 pages
Publisher: Abrams Books