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Monday, August 23, 2010

Lulu's Piano Lesson, written by Arlene Alda and illustrated by Lisa Desimini. Tundra, 2010. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"Lulu looked surprised. "Today?" she asked. "I really don't want to take my lesson today...I didn't practice." But Lulu packed up her music and slowly walked to her piano teacher's house."

Author Arlene Alda has something to say about music and practicing: "When I was a kid, I loved music but hated to practice". She eventually gave up piano lessons and fell in love with the clarinet, which she played in the Houston Symphony. Lulu may have gained life in the early experiences of this accomplished author. Lulu loves the sounds around her...the swing squeak as she sails through the air, and the ring of the bell on her bicycle as she and her friend Cara ride up and down the street. What with all the distractions and fun in the neighborhood, Lulu has little time to think about the 'next' piano lesson.

Friday comes and off she goes, stomach churning, to admit to Mr. Sharp that she has ignored her promise to practice and she has come unprepared. Mr. Sharp's reaction is perfect. He recognizes the stress she is feeling and encourages her to talk about her week and honors her description of the music she hears in the everyday events of her life. He encourages her to sing the sounds she hears and then to try her hand at last week's lesson. Encouraged and no longer so tense, Lulu is able to read the notes and play the song as she learned it in a previous lesson. With great applause and quiet advice, Mr. Sharp encourages Lulu to work hard in the week to come and 'to see if you can memorize the piano part.'

Off she skips, content in her ability and with a song in her heart, and in her feet, and in her voice:

"The music of the piano lesson was still in Lulu's head, this time played by a huge orchestra..."

Lisa Desimini uses her unique and engaging mixed media collages to give voice to the sounds that Lulu hears as she bounces through her week, enjoying life to the fullest. The bright palette adds warmth and delight to this young girl's love of music, in all of its forms.

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