Monday, April 14, 2008

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Linda Urban
Harcourt, 2007

Zoe Elias just wants a piano. What does she get? An organ and six months of free organ lessons. It’s not perfect but her life isn’t perfect either. Her father is afraid to leave the house and so her mom spends a lot of time at work, earning enough money to keep the family afloat. Her dad takes lots of courses from Living Room University “where you can learn any trade without leaving the comfort and privacy of your own home.” (p. 25) He’s taken such classes as “Earn Bucks Driving Trucks” and “Golden Gloves: Make a Mint Coaching Boxing.” Zoe learns to play the organ using the book Hits of the Seventies and is chosen to be at the Perform-O-Rama (a local organ competition). The only hitch? With her mom working so much and her dad afraid to leave the house, how is she going to get there? Life is not perfect for Zoe, but as she learns, a crooked kind of perfect is sometimes good enough.

It would be easy to dismiss A Crooked Kind of Perfect as just a sweet story but that would be doing it an injustice. I simply loved Linda Urban’s characters and her refusal to use stereotypes. I can’t label a favorite character – I loved them all! Zoe’s father really appealed to me but maybe that’s because I had an agoraphobic great-grandmother so I could understand his fears. Neither Zoe nor her friend Wheeler were whiners, although many would think they had plenty to whine about. The theme of not giving up, even when life isn't perfect is an important one (and one that kids need to be constantly reminded of). This book couldn't have a better title.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this book will be around for a while – it’s a book that teachers will love and I think kids will love it too.

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