Instead, she gets a Perfectone D-60 organ and six months of free lessons from a woman named Mabelline Person. Instead of Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, or even Frere Jacques, she is given television theme songs from the sixties and seventies. Not exactly glamorous.
Zoe is an only child. Her mother is a straightforward, working professional, a controller for the state who spends a great deal of time a work. Her father enjoys earning degrees from Living Room University, learning how to scrapbook, coach boxing, and pilot a plane - all from the comfort of his own home, using objects he has around the house. After school, before or after her own lessons, Zoe helps her father with his. Sometimes, she delights in his antics, but other times, his errors - like getting her a wheezy organ! - make her cringe. Her goofy classmate named Walker befriends her father and the two bake in the background while Miss Person sets up a metronome and a Hits from the Sixties songbook for an exasperated Zoe.
Zoe's getting frustrated. She's not a prodigy. She's not a concert pianist. But she's also not a quitter. Slowly but surely, she learns how to play the organ and surprises herself with how much she likes it. When she goes on to compete at Perform-o-Rama, winning over her parents is far more important to her than winning a trophy.
With quirky characters and quick chapters, Linda Urban's debut is as close to Perfect as you can get. The humorous writing will satisfy both reluctant and avid readers. From her head to her toe socks, Zoe is a lovable little girl, and her voice rings true. If this book were a song, it would be music to my ears.
One of the best books of 2007, in my opinion, A Crooked Kind of Perfect also won The Cybils Award for Middle Grade Fiction and other distinctions. Highly recommended.
Read my interview with author Linda Urban.
Booklist: Middle School Must-Haves
The Cybils: 2007 Middle Grade Nominations
The Cybils: 2007 Middle Grade Hall of Fame
The Cybils: 2007 Middle Grade Finalists
The Cybils: 2007 Winners