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Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Crooked Kind of Perfect, written by Linda Urban. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen, 2007. $8.99 ages 10 and up

"...You can sit with us until you find a new best friend if you want."
If I had my paper keyboard, I could unfold it now and start practicing. It really wouldn't make any difference. I have gone over to the dork side."

I ordered Linda Urban's first book with great anticipation, after last week reading Hound Dog True and meeting Mattie and her Uncle Potluck.  I thought I would make it my 'train book'... the book I keep in my car for times when I have to stop for a train, or wait at the doctor's office, or whenever I need a book to make better use of my wait time.  That was my intention and so, I took it into the restaurant and began reading while waiting to meet a friend for lunch yesterday. Then, I brought it straight inside when I got home. After making sure some of the Christmas jobs got done, I happily took it to bed with me and promptly fell asleep....must have been the day's hard work. So, when I woke up at 4 am, I was delighted to have Zoe there, waiting to tell me her story. Finish it I did...and I promise you will do the same. She gets into your heart, just as music gets into hers:

"When you play the piano, you have to get the heart right. Which is harder than getting the notes right.
Each note can only be right in one way. A B-flat is a B-flat is a B-flat. A robot can get a B-flat right.
But getting the heart right is something only a person can do. And the ways to do it are as many and as different as there are people in the world."

After meeting Zoe, hearing her voice and wanting to know more about her, I just kept reading. I feel blessed to have met her.  She is a 10 year old with a dream. She wants to be a piano protege, and she wants to play at Carnegie Hall, with all the perks that such a gig might offer. Her father is sent on a shopping trip and instead of a baby grand piano, he comes home with a Perfectone D-60 organ. It is theirs, and her parents are agreeable to paying for lessons with Mabelline Person, who encourages Zoe to play from the books provided with the organ...TV show themes, hits of all decades but the Eighties (when there were no hits).

I haven't yet mentioned her mother:

"My mother is a controller for the state of Michigan. She looks after all the money and makes sure she knows where every dime is spent and that nobody is cheating or stealing of buying stuff they're not supposed to."

or her father:

"I don't want to tell them about Bugs to Bucks. Because then they'll ask if my dad kills bugs for a living and I'll say no and they'll say what does he do and I'll have to tell them that he stays in our house all day earning degrees that he'll never use."

or her best friend Emma Dent:

"I was going to bare my soul to my dear best friend Emma Dent and, through tragedy, we would forge an unbreakable sisterly bond.
But Emma is not sitting at our regular lunch table. She is two tables away sharing a bag of  SnackyDoodles with Joella Tinstella."

or Wheeler Diggs:

"Usually, Wheeler Diggs is a mess.
Except his hair.
On anybody else, his curly hair might look goofy, but on Wheeler Diggs it looks just the right kind of wild."

Wheeler doesn't have a best friend, and Zoe Elias doesn' t have a best friend. It is not that surprising that Wheeler Diggs starts hanging out at the Elias house, making discoveries about Zoe and her dad. Zoe begins making some discoveries about Wheeler, while also learning more about herself.

Each character is unique and worthy of our admiration for their honest response to the events of the novel. They find solutions, accept help and move forward in their lives. Nobody's perfect; but, they work!

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