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Children’s Fiction of 2007: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Posted by Sherry on 12/17/2007 in Children's Fiction, Cybil Awards, General |

How It Was Supposed to Be: I was supposed to play the piano. The piano is a beautiful instrument. Elegant. Dignified. People wear ball gowns and tuxedos to hear the piano. With the piano, you could play Carnegie Hall. . . . A piano is glamorous. Sophisticated. Worldly. It is a wonderful thing to play the piano.

How It Is: I play the organ. A wood-grained, vinyl seated, wheeze-bag organ. The Perfectone D-60.”

The Perfectone D-60 is, of course, an emblem of sorts for narrator Zoe Elias’s not-so-perfect life. Her mom’s always at work; her dad’s afraid to leave the house; her best friend has found another best friend; Wheeler Diggs keeps following her home; and Colton Shell, the guy she really likes, doesn’t even notice her. However, things get really complicated when Zoe agrees to enter the Perform-a-Rama playing Neil Diamond’s Forever in Blue Jeans on her Perfectone D-60. How will she get to the competition? Will her mom be able to get off work long enough to see her perform? Why did she want to be in a competition in the first place? And what if, heaven forbid, she makes a mistake?

Zoe’s parents are wonderful, imperfect parents. Zoe herself is just imperfect enough to be believable. She learns to play quickly and well, but she’s not a prodigy, just a dedicated musician who enjoys her music in spite of her imperfect instrument and her rather odd teacher, Miss Person. A Crooked Kind of Perfect has a great title and a narrator with an incomparable voice, just right for a ten year old with ambitions. It’s a funny book, yet it has a serious message about perfectionism and about living and thriving in the midst of imperfection.

One of Zoe’s dreams the night before the Perform-o-rama:

Dream #4
My mom is judging the Perform-O-Rama.
I’m wearing a tiara and playing “Forever in Blue Jeans.”
I am perfect.
I think I’m perfect.
I’m not perfect.
My mom shows me her judging sheet. It is filled with red marks—one for each wrong note.
And then a phone rings and everybody turns and looks and there in the audience Vladomir Horowitz is pulling a cell phone out of his tuxedo pocket.
‘Hello?’ he says. He looks at me.
‘It’s for you.'”

Three more dreams and a lot more humor, if you read the book.

Other bloggers review A Crooked Kind of Perfect:

Becky at Deliciously Clean Reads: “The characters, the relationships are about as perfect as can be. I’ve never seen family dynamics so well captured, so well displayed. Linda Urban has created memorable, authentic characters. The book has it all–moments of happiness, frustration, disappointment, loneliness, and joy. And plenty of humor!”

Shelf Elf: “Linda Urban deserves plenty of attention for her debut. I’ve been inspired. Next time I visit my mom’s place, you can bet I’ll be spending a little time grooving my way down memory lane with my old favs from Roger’s and Hammerstein Hits backed up by a little Boogie Woogie Bass.”

Jen Robinson’s Book Page: “This is an excellent book to give to a kids in the third to sixth grades. It’s a relatively easy read, but with a lot of hidden depth that I think the kids on the middle school end (and higher) will be more able to appreciate. For example, there is a painful scene in which Zoe attends a party where she brings the wrong gift and wears the wrong clothes. This will resonate with any reader who has ever had such an experience. (And who hasn’t?)”

2 Comments

  • Jen Robinson says:

    Thanks for quoting from my review. I think it’s really nice to see your thoughts, and those of several others, all in one handy location. What a great book!

  • […] “I teach middle school, and sometimes I find that I have more choices for my readers who like edgy YA stories than I do for those kids who read well but aren’t quite ready for teenager issues. A Crooked Kind of Perfect is a perfect kind of book for those readers.” Kate: Read her review Semicolon review here. […]

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