Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Zoe Elias dreams of playing Carnegie Hall someday. She wants to wear a tiara and opera length gloves, which she will take off one finger at a time, and then set them down at the shiny, black grand piano. Zoe dreams of being the next Vladimir Horowitz

 A piano is glamorous. Sophisticated. Worldly. 
It is a wonderful thing to play the piano.

But instead, her dad bought her an organ.

A wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ. 
The Perfectone D-60. 

To say that Zoe is disappointed would be an understatement. At first, she doesn't want anything to do with the Perfectone D-60, but eventually relents and takes lessons from a teacher named Mabelline Person (that's pronounced Per-saaahn) who always expects a cold glass of Vernors ginger ale when she gets to Zoe's house for her lesson.

As Zoe learns to play the Perfectone D-60, she also learns to navigate a new friendship with a boy named Wheeler Diggs who comes by her house everyday to do his homework and bake desserts with Zoe's dad. She is also figuring out how accept her somewhat dysfunctional family -- with a mom who, as a controller for the state of Michigan, is obsessed with numbers and the bottom line and never seems to be home -- even on Zoe's birthday -- and a dad who appears to suffer from a rather debilitating case of agoraphobia. He rarely leaves the house, and when he does, he usually ends up buying something he shouldn't have (thus the Perfectone D-60).

I adored Zoe's story and could completely identify with her desire to play the piano. While other kids resent being forced to play the piano by their parents, I begged mine for piano lessons from the time I was three years old. And just like Zoe, I dreamed (and still dream) of the day when I could own my very own shiny black grand piano.

The writing in A Crooked Kind of Perfect was exactly as the title describes -- perfect in its imperfections and humanness. It is light and humorous, but also beautiful and heartfelt. It reads a bit like a novel in crots, with short chapters that end somewhat abruptly, yet gliding like staccato notes on a piano, finishing on a satisfying cadence.

Linda Urban is known for writing quiet books that are more character studies instead of filled with plot-driven action, but this is why I adored A Crooked Kind of Perfect so very much. Not only could I identify with Zoe in her desire to play the piano, but I just love books that are full of imperfect yet loveable characters. I could read a novel about nothing so long as the characters were well-written, and that's what Linda Urban has done with A Crooked Kind of Perfect: created characters you just want to sit with and talk to for a while.

Hand this book to kids who are music lovers, but who also appreciate quiet, under-the-radar stories.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Published: September 1, 2007
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 214
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Purchased Copy

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  1. This is a very favorite middle grade of mine, possibly THE very favorite. I love your description of Urban's writing.

  2. One of my favorite middle grades too. Love Linda Urban so much! Her writing manages to be accessible and beautiful at the same time--not sure how she pulls that off.