The other book that really struck me this year is Linda Urban’s first novel, A Crooked Kind of Perfect (Harcourt, $16). Life is not perfect. The heroine is ten-year-old Zoe Elias, who knows from the get go that life is not exactly perfect. Her father has problems leaving the living room; her mother is a nit-picking controller for the state of Michigan who preaches fiscal responsibility at career day and outs the class tough-guy for keeping the quarter she loaned him for a budget demonstration. Joella Kinsella, whose father is a radio disc jockey, embodies hip and thinks Zoe is not. She feels free to share this opinion. Zoe would just like to get out of fifth grade with one teensy little fantasy intact—that of being a piano virtuoso who plays at Carnegie Hall. Is that too much to ask? But before you can say “learn your scales,” her father has left the house, and, in an angst-filled trip to the mall, purchased Zoe a wheezy Perfectone D-60 wood-grain organ.
It just figures.
In short, fast-paced chapters, Zoe rolls out life as usual for the Elias family. Her Perfectone instructor is not a former concert pianist whose only goal is to nurture young undiscovered prodigies. It is Mabelline Person, whose lessons come FREE for the first six months and who is prone to exploding with phrases like, “Great Mother of Mozart!”
Urban’s book is so delightful, warm and wise. I keep calling it “The Little Miss Sunshine of the Year,” and I’m not the only one to make that analogy. You’ll want to read it yourself before passing it on to your kids.
My reading list for the break includes Thirteen Reasons, What is the What?, Jackie Woodson’s After Tupac and D Foster, and The True Meaning of Smek Day, sent to me by my beloved friend at the Ann Arbor library, Ieva Bates. When I asked Sally Bulthuis at Pooh’s Corner if she liked it, she just got a big goofy grin on her face. Now that’s a good recommendation.