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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Quirky Novel Proves Perfection's Not All Its Cracked Up to Be

If you can't tell from the cover, A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban is a quirky little

novel. In fact, at times, the story becomes downright odd. At least that's the impression I got when I read it the other morning between 2 and 4 a.m. while rocking a fussy baby. Sleep deprivation has left my mind in a fog, so I could be misjudging the book - maybe it's a perfectly normal story and it's just my exhausted mind that's odd. ANYWAY ...

This children's book (I think it would be considered middle-grade fiction?) stars 10-year-old Zoe Elias, a girl who dreams of performing at Carnegie Hall. In her dreams, she's a piano-playing prodigy studying under a "sweet, rumpled old man" (20) she calls Maestro. Elegantly coifed, she breezes through pieces by Beethoven and Mozart, earning herself dozens of admirers. Zoe's reality isn't quite so grand. Instead of a shiny baby grand, she plays a "wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag" (3) organ. Instead of a dignified gentleman teaching her the classics, she's stuck with Mabelline Person, who sips ginger ale while plunking out tunes from the Hits of the Seventies songbook. In Zoe's dreams, her mother buys her fancy gowns and piles her hair into sophisticated 'dos; in real life, she's too busy with work to pay much attention. Her father supports her ambitions, but his fear of crowds, change, and just about everything else, makes him a less-than-perfect talent manager.

Undeterred, Zoe decides to take on the Perform-O-Rama organ competition. While she readies Neil Diamond's Forever in Blue Jeans, she tries to quell her growing anxiety. All the practice, the sour notes and the fear are getting to her - she has to play the song perfectly, and it's just not happening. She wants to pour her heart out to her dad, but he's too focused on cooking up a storm for his Rollin' in Dough: Earn a Dolla' Baking Challah self-improvement course. To make matters worse, she can't even cry on his shoulder, because her friend Wheeler's having too much fun baking with her dad to ever leave. When Zoe hears an interview with a successful young musician, she decides that maybe she can endure her lessons after all. In fact, she vows to practice harder so one day she, too, will be interviewed on the radio. It's the perfect plan. But, as the Perform-O-Rama edges closer, her carefully-laid plans start to unravel fast - her mother has to work on performance day, leaving her in the hands of her father, who's terrified to leave the house. Can Zoe make it to the competition, let alone Carnegie Hall? What will become of all her perfect dreams?

Zoe may be a little odd, but readers will have no trouble identifying with her. She represents all of us in our yearning for enviable, picture-perfect lives. Like the rest of us, she learns that perfection isn't all it's cracked up to be and when we try our very best, we can find our own brand of perfect. Even if it's the crooked kind.

Grade: B


  1. I loved this one! Hope you get some sleep!

  2. I loved this one. This one was one of my favorite favorite books of 2007

  3. Thanks for reading the book. I'm glad you liked it!

  4. Quirky is fine. This sounds like a nice kind of read for my daughter, who is a good reader, but not ready for the more mature (and oftentimes disturbing) stuff that passes as young adult lit these days.


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