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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chopsticks, written by Jessica Anthony and Rogdigo Corral. Razorbill, Penguin. 2012. $21.00 ages 15 and up


"Are you really going?
I am
when do you leave?
this fall
how long are you gone?
A year. There's this school
in Italy...
Florence
It sounds OK"

I had no idea what to expect when Chopsticks arrived in the mail! I had read about it, had asked for it to be sent to me, and was ready to sit and read it. It is so much more than the novel I was expecting, and I am not sure that I can do justice to it in just telling you about it.
I think you need it in your hands.

But, here goes...it is scrapbook tale told using multimedia that has readers listening, feeling, discovering, imagining, watching and watching and watching. Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral have created a book that is filled with video, song, messages and scarce text as well. It is the first book I have seen quite like it, and am not sure I will see again.

It is told using photographs and is the story of Glory Fleming, a piano prodigy who has gone missing. Two double page spreads show newscasters reporting on her disappearance and are followed by pictures of pieces of evidence, a musical introduction to chapter 1 and a newspaper clipping describing Glory and her life, her struggles and her last known whereabouts.

The book flashes back eighteen months, allowing us a look at Glory's home, her family, the loss of her mother, and her growing love for Frank, despite her father's disapproval. They love music and art; sharing a strong bond despite obstacles placed in their path. Internet chats, postcards, letters, pieces of art, announcements, invitations: all allow us a window into their fears, frustrations and Glory's admission to a rest facility where her obsession with playing Chopsticks for hours at a time is noted in a weekly progress report to her father.

The music lists had me listening to Itunes, I visited YouTube many times, and I just read it again for the third time. In case, I haven't convinced you that it is worthy of your attention, please check out his trailer:   http://www.youtube.com/embed/T4j55yz_iZg" and then read what the authors have to say about the truly memorable story they have created:

"Chopsticks is a multimedia novel which questions the truth of objects, sounds, and images. From the start, neither of us wanted to employ multimedias merely for the sake of it; instead, we wanted to use music and images that would actually do the work of textual narrative. We spent several months combing through music websites, iTunes, Youtube videos and selected pieces which, whether sonically or lyrically, helped to reveal story. We also recruited help writing and recording original arrangements from music producer Jonathan Wyman. The outcome is a book which collages a variety of visual, textual and musical narratives.
 
The music in Chopsticks ranges from Beethoven to The Lawrence Welk Show to The Rolling Stones to a veritable buffet of Argentinean rock music. (Also, there are a number of contemporary songs which, once contextualized in the novel, create a kind of nostalgia for the Aughts.) While there are over forty pieces of music played or referenced..."

It all feels so authentic and real, and is so emotionally wrenching that I needed to know through the credits at the back that the parts ARE played by actors...and it IS fiction. It is testament to the collaborators' talent for telling Glory's story with such compassion. There is so much for readers to infer from this brilliantly fashioned story. It will not sit well with those who want clear answers to the questions that arise. But, it worth your attention!

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