A Crooked Kind of Perfect
A Crooked Kind of Perfect

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Annotation: Ten-year-old Zoe Elias, who longs to play the piano but must resign herself to learning the organ instead, finds that her musicianship has a positive impact on her workaholic mother, her jittery father, and her school social life.
Catalog Number: #36819
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition Date: 2007
Pages: 213 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-15-206608-X Perma-Bound: 0-605-25175-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-15-206608-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-25175-5
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2006100622
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Ten-year-old Zoe longs to have a piano, become a prodigy, and play in Carnegie Hall like her hero, Vladimir Horowitz. But Zoe's father doesn't buy a piano. Instead, he gets her a Perfectone D-60 electric organ, complete with lessons and golden oldies songbooks. Disappointed but game, Zoe starts practicing. Her friend Emma dumps her, but soon Wheeler Diggs starts coming home with Zoe after school every day to hang out with her and, increasingly, with her dad, who is terrified of leaving the house. Meanwhile, Zoe practices for the Perform-O-Rama, where young Perfectone players compete before judges. In short chapters varying from a few pages to two words, this first-person narrative is immediately engaging and increasingly involving. Zoe's world is drawn with sometimes painful precision,  her emotions are revealed with empathy, and her story unfolds realistically, without the miracles she hopes for, but with small, sometimes surprising changes. The portrayal of Zoe's father is particularly fine. Sometimes funny, sometimes tender, this is a promising debut for the author.
Horn Book
Ten-year-old Zoe dreams of becoming a famous piano prodigy. Instead of a piano, though, her father brings home a Perfectone D-60 organ. Zoe's witty voice narrates the book's short chapters. Readers will identify with Zoe's insecurities, laugh at her quirky family, and feel her pride in this winning story about family, friendship, self-confidence, and dreams come (realistically) true.
Kirkus Reviews
All ten-year-old Zoe Elias has ever wanted is a baby grand so that she can become a star who dazzles Carnegie Hall. She doesn't know how to play, but that's a minor stumbling block. What she gets instead is an old, wheezy organ, a gift from her well-meaning, agoraphobic dad. While workaholic mom is hardly ever home, Zoe resigns herself to learning to play the instrument, all the while encouraged by her skittish father and a newfound supportive pal. Wouldn't you know that she turns out to be great at it and goes on to win in competition? There's a lot of knowing, child-friendly humor here, not the least provided by Zoe's hoot of an organ instructor. Readers should enjoy the fast-paced, brief chapters, silliness and tongue-in-cheek first-person narration. The author doesn't pull out all the stops, and the ending is pat, but this is still a satisfying read. (Fiction. 9-12)
Publishers Weekly

Former bookseller Urban makes a highly promising fiction debut with this sweet, funny novel, relayed in short, titled entries. Ten-year-old Zoe dreams of becoming a famous pianist (as she says in “How It Was Supposed to Be,” “A piano is sophisticated. Glamorous. Worldly”). But her quasi-agoraphobic father has one of his usual freak-outs as he attempts to shop for a piano and buys her an electric organ instead. How can Zoe possibly become the next Vladimir Horowitz if she has to play on a “Perfectone D-60”? Grudgingly, she begins taking lessons from Mabelline Person (pronounced “Per-saaahn”), who hands Zoe songbooks full of TV theme songs or hits from the ’70s (“My piano teacher was supposed to be a sweet, rumpled old man,” Zoe confides to readers. “I would call him Maestro…. He would discourage me from practicing too much and spoiling the spontaneity of my play”). But when Mabelline enters her in the Perform-O-Rama—her first contest ever—Zoe thinks for the first time that her dreams could possibly come true. Throw in an absurdly workaholic mother, a best friend who deserts Zoe for a girl with a rhyming name (Joella Tinstella), an underparented boy who blossoms overnight when Zoe’s dad takes him under his wing, and Zoe’s dad’s eccentricities, if not to say full-blown neuroses; Urban controls these exaggerated elements through the evenness of Zoe’s voice. No matter how outrageously her subjects behave, the author always sounds natural. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-An impressive and poignant debut novel. Eleven-year-old Zoe dreams of giving piano recitals at Carnegie Hall. When her father purchases a Perfectone D-60, though, she must settle for the sounds of the organ rather than the distinguished sounds of a baby grand. Her organ teacher, Mabelline Person, notices the child's small talent for music and recommends her for the "Perfectone Perform-O-Rama"; she will play Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans." Accepting this new twist to her ambitions, Zoe must depend on a quirky support system: her father, who gets anxious when he leaves the house and who earns diplomas from Living Room University; her workaholic mother; and her classmate Wheeler, who follows Zoe home from school daily to spend time with her father, baking. Playing television theme songs from the '60s and '70s rather than Bach doesn't get Zoe down. Instead, aware of the stark difference between her dream and her reality, she forges ahead and, as an underdog, faces the uncertainty of entering the competition. In the end, resilient and resourceful Zoe finds perfection in the most imperfect and unique situations, and she shines. The refreshing writing is full of pearls of wisdom, and readers will relate to this fully developed character. The sensitive story is filled with hope and humor. It has a feel-good quality and a subtle message about how doing one's best and believing in oneself are what really matter.-Jennifer Cogan, Bucks County Free Library, Doylestown, PA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Word Count: 29,052
Reading Level: 3.9
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.9 / points: 4.0 / quiz: 116562 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.5 / points:8.0 / quiz:Q41678
Lexile: 730L
Guided Reading Level: U
Fountas & Pinnell: U

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience's applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she'll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall. But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe's dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn't the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn't the only part of Zoe's life in Michigan that's off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day. Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises--and that perfection may be even better when it's just a little off center.


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