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A Crooked Kind of Perfect

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

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A Crooked Kind of Perfect

4/5 (22 valutazioni)
153 pagine
2 ore
Apr 6, 2009


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.

This ebook includes a sample chapter of Hound Dog True.

Apr 6, 2009

Informazioni sull'autore

Linda Urban's debut novel, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, was selected for many best books lists and was nominated for twenty state awards. She is also the author of Hound Dog True, The Center of Everything, Milo Speck, Accidental Agent, and the chapter book Weekends with Max and His Dad, which received two starred reviews. A former bookseller, she lives in Vermont. Visit Linda online at and on Twitter at @lindaurbanbooks.

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Anteprima del libro

A Crooked Kind of Perfect - Linda Urban


Copyright © 2007 by Linda Urban

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

Forever in Blue Jeans written by Neil Diamond and Richard Bennett

Copyright © 1979 Stonebridge Music and Sweet Sixteen Music, Inc. (SESAC)

All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:

Urban, Linda.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect/Linda Urban.

p. cm.

Summary: 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.

[1. Organ (Musical instrument)—Fiction. 2. Music—Instruction and study—Fiction. 3. Family life—Fiction. 4. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 5. Schools—Fiction. 6. Humorous stories.] I. Title.

PZ7.U637Cr 2007

[Fic]—dc22 2006100622

ISBN 978-0-15-206007-7

This is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, places, organizations, and events portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any organization, event, or actual person, living or dead, is unintentional.

eISBN 978-0-15-206669-7


For my dad, Louis Urban

How It Was Supposed to Be

I was supposed to play the piano.

The piano is a beautiful instrument.



People wear ball gowns and tuxedos to hear the piano.

With the piano, you could play Carnegie Hall. You could wear a tiara. You could come out on stage wearing gloves up to your elbows. You could pull them off, one finger at a time.

Everybody is quiet when you are about to play the piano. They don’t even breathe. They wait for the first notes.

They wait.

They wait.

And then you lift your hands high above your head and slam them down on the keys and the first notes come crashing out and your fingers fly up and down and your foot—in its tiny slipper with rubies at the toe—your foot peeks out from under your gown to press lightly on the pedals.

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.

Vladimir Horowitz

The best pianist who ever lived was Vladimir Horowitz.

Well, maybe Mozart or Beethoven or one of those ancient guys was really the best, but nobody knows because they didn’t have CDs or television or anything back then. But once TV and recordings came around, the best guy for sure was Vladimir Horowitz.

I saw a show about Vladimir Horowitz one time.

I wanted to watch that old show on TV Land about the twins who are always switching names and clothes and playing tricks on their teachers and boyfriends, but my mom said, Zoe, either you can watch PBS with me or you can go to bed. And she had popcorn.

Vladimir Horowitz was born in Russia. His mom played piano. The show didn’t say what his dad did.

He was a prodigy, which means that even when he was a little kid he could play like a grown-up. When he was seventeen, he gave his first professional concert, and when he came to America a few years later, he played Carnegie Hall.

I’m ten. Almost eleven.

That means I have six years to get good.

I told my mom that I wanted to be a prodigy, that I wanted to play Carnegie Hall. I told her I wanted to play the piano.

Take it up with Domestic Affairs, she said. That’s my mom’s way of saying, Talk to your dad.

The Controller

My mom is a controller for the state of Michigan. She looks after all the money and makes sure she knows how every dime is spent and that nobody is cheating or stealing or buying stuff they’re not supposed to. I found all this out on Career Day last October. I didn’t know before.

On Career Day, the other moms and dads were things that kids had heard of. Like Mr. Nunzio, who is a baker and who brought us all little chocolate cupcakes with Nunzio’s Buns written in pink frosting. Or Joella’s mom, Mrs. Tinstella, who is a host of a radio program on WPOP. She had her microphone and pretended she was doing her program while she was talking to us—putting in commercials and introducing songs and taking requests—and then she gave us red-and-purple WPOP bumper stickers. For weeks afterward all the cool kids’ parents had WPOP bumper stickers on their cars, but we didn’t because my mom says bumper stickers fade and peel and then your car has a big gummy rectangle that attracts dirt and anyway it’s just a big advertisement for WPOP and they’re going to have to pay us if they want us to advertise for their noisy excuse for a radio station.

When Mrs. Trimble introduced my mom and Mom started talking about being a controller and fiscal responsibility and keeping your ducks in a row, most of the kids looked really bored. Even Mrs. Trimble looked like she was going to need to head to the teachers’ lounge, which is where she goes when she has had it and desperately needs a cup of coffee and a Tylenol.

But then my mom started walking down each row and asking each kid’s name, and she’d say, Lily. Nice to meet you, Lily. Here is a quarter. Buckley. Interesting name, Buckley. Here is a nickel. She talked to each kid and gave them money and then went back up to the podium and kept on talking about how a controller has to know where every penny is and not get distracted by emotion or politics or home life or what’s on the radio. Which made Joella Tinstella turn around in her seat and stare all mean at me for about five minutes. Everyone else was watching Mom. Hoping she was going to hand out more money, probably.

In any organization there are distractions. Personalities. Drama. It is a controller’s job to ignore these distractions and focus exclusively on the money, said my mom.

Then, with her eyes closed so we wouldn’t think she was cheating, my mom said, Lily, quarter. Buckley, nickel. Colton, quarter. Ashley, dime. She named every single kid in the class and said exactly which coin she gave them. I got them all right, yes? asked Mom and we all said yes and clapped. Mrs. Trimble said, Thank you very much, and started telling my mom how much we all enjoyed her talk. My mom interrupted her.

Before I go, Mom started. And my stomach started aching and my hands started sweating and I knew that every kid in my class was about to hate me.

Before I go, she repeated, I’ll need you to pass those coins up to the front of your rows. Every penny counts. That is fiscal responsibility! Mrs. Trimble made us all pass our coins up and Mom counted them at the end of each row, and when one quarter was missing in row three she said, Wheeler. My quarter. Wheeler Diggs pretended that he had already passed it up to the front and then faked like Sally Marvin dropped it on the floor and he had to crawl around under his desk before he handed it over.

Later, after music class, Wheeler Diggs stopped me in the hall and looked all mean at me and I thought he was going to punch me in the stomach and I threw up and I missed my bus and my mom had to come back to school and take me home.

On Paper

The first time I told my dad that I was supposed to play the piano, he harrumphed. The second time, he rubbed his chin. The third time, he said, That’s a big commitment for a little person. My dad knows about big commitments. He has twenty-six framed diplomas from Living Room University.

I am destined to play Carnegie Hall, I told him.

Baby steps, he said, pulling a flyer from the stack of junk mail on the counter. It was from the Eastside Senior Center, and in it was an ad for More with Les, a revolutionary method for learning the piano. Six weeks of lessons with Lester Rennet, Award-Winning Music Teacher and Trained Motivational Speaker! Specializing in Children and Seniors! No Instrument Required!

The senior center had one piano, and it was not grand. It was an almost-upright. It leaned to one side. I guessed it had been donated by a school because there were initials carved into its legs, and if you lifted the yellow scarf off the top, you could read all about a Mrs. Pushkin who smelled like fish. The bench was bowed from years of supporting senior citizen backsides.

The More with Les students sat at folding tables. There were nine of us. Me and eight seniors, including Mr. Faber, who was ninety-two years old and slept through most of our lessons. He was not motivated by the More with Les philosophy.

My philosophy is simple! My method revolutionary! said Lester Rennet.

Save it for the brochures, grumbled Mr. Faber.

This is your More with Les songbook. The cover featured an out-of-focus photo of Lester Rennet surrounded by kids who appeared to be holding up homemade accordions. SIMPLE! it said. REVOLUTIONARY!

Mr. Rennet told us to turn to the back of the More with Les songbook. There we would find the revolution.

What I found was a piece of perforated cardboard folded over on itself a couple of times. There was a piano key design printed along the bottom edge.

Voilà! said Mr. Rennet.


The More with Les paper keyboard!

Paper keyboard.

The blurry kids on the

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  • (4/5)
    After watching a public television special of a great pianist, 10-year-old Zoe Elias dreams of becoming a concert pianist. The only problem is that when her dad goes to purchase a used piano for her, he ends up coming home with a used electronic organ instead. How can Zoe ever reach Carnegie Hall now?This is a short and sweet middle readers book, which is a nice departure from some of the heavier and darker books I've been reading lately. Zoe's problems are fairly mundane -- not getting the instrument you want, not fitting in with the 'cool' girls at school, etc. The more unusual issue is that her father clearly has agoraphobia and/or generalized anxiety disorder, although the author never specifies this. Her father's problems are treated in a sympathetic way while not dragging the book down into a dark place. Personally, I could have done without the romantic angle, but that is fairly slight -- and also my own eyes have seen how children that young are entangling themselves into relationship statuses they aren't really ready for yet. While the book isn't really that old, there are a few things that seemed dated already. For instance, a big chunk of Mr. Elias's fear of leaving the house could be lessened by the ubiquity of GPS nowadays. Audio reader Tai Alexandra Ricci did a great job of adding appropriate emotion and inflection to the text.
  • (5/5)
    Eleven-year-old Zoe is a master at making the most of her situation when Dad buys her an organ rather than the piano she envisioned for her Carnegie Hall performance. A cast of quirky and well developed characters come alive with an engaging and heart-warming story. (family, friend and school issues too)
  • (4/5)
    I haven't heard a lot of buzz yet about Newbery contenders, but I'd say this is one of them. It's another quiet story with all the action being character development, without a lot of outside plot to muck it up. It's ostensibly a middle-grade novel, with a protagonist who is 10 years old (going on 11), but the book's appeal will be more for older teens or adults--readers who remember being that age, rather than readers who are that age.

    That said, as an adult, this is a very good story--a girl coming to terms with her workaholic mother and agoraphobic father, the best friend who doesn't want to be best friends anymore, the new friend who doesn't really register as a friend for a while. She wants to be a piano prodigy, but instead of a piano she's saddled with an organ. And she overcomes these odds to a very realistic conclusion.
  • (4/5)
    the detail and the feelings Zoe had made me live through the story book with Zoe and the rest.
  • (2/5)
    "A Crooked Kind of Perfect", follows the story of a little girl named Zoe who refuses to accept anything that could be described by the title. She is disappointed by anything in her life that doesn't fit her definition of perfect. Zoe is an aspiring pianist and she has dreams of being a "prodigy" and playing at Carnegie Hall but is dissatisfied with her piano lessons and learning outdated theme songs. Zoe is also dissatisfied by her less than perfect family. Her mom works a lot and her father is agoraphobic. She makes an unlikely friend named Wheeler who helps her realize that her family is great just the way it is. I did not particularly enjoy this book just because I could not identify with the main character at all as an adult. She lives a safe and happy life with two parents who are still married, alive and love her very much. Despite all of this, she does nothing but complain about what she wants and doesn't have. This infuriated me while I was reading the book so it was hard to enjoy. There are thousands of children that die every day of starvation so I can't really sympathize for the ten year old that doesn't know what real pain is. I guess this was part of what makes the book though, Zoe's realization that her life is actually pretty much perfect. The title also made me think a bit about what perfect is, and it's subjective. What is perfect to me may be all kinds of wrong to somebody with a different perspective.
  • (4/5)
    All Zoe wants is to learn to play the piano. She can just picture herself playing a glossy grand piano, wearing a sweeping dress, on the stage of Carnegie Hall. Instead, her eccentric father purchases a Perfectone D60-an organ with all the trimmings. Between living with an agoraphobic father (that means he is afraid to leave his house) and an exacting accountant mother, Zoe can barely keep her life together, much less perfect. But she soon learns that there are different types of perfect, and the perfect you didn't even imagine can be just as great as the perfect you did.I have one quibble with this book: Zoe is supposed to be ten, but she comes across as a precocious 12 or 13. If you don't get hung up on that, this is a fun little book about learning to love what you have, and that every family is different. Funny and well-written, students will enjoy reading about Zoe's exploits, which are sometimes funny and sometimes poignant. Readers will be able to recognize the feelings of frustration that Zoe experiences when she begins to learn that life doesn't always take you on the path you thought it would. This book is especially great for perfectionist girls.For ages 9 - 13.
  • (4/5)
    When I picked out this book I did not think beyond the fact that it sounded interesting, I liked the socks on the cover, and I wanted to read about someone learning how to play the organ. My decision was not premeditated. I had just recently finished reading something about The Phantom of the Opera and so just the word organ caught my interest. I had thought that it would be interesting and if it was not, oh well, I spent less than four dollars on it. What I was not expecting was a book that made me laugh and want to be able to know more about her family. Not only her dad that spends all day at home getting diplomas that he would never use but the mother who actually gave a fourth grade class money only to take it back.A couple of reviews that I have read said that because she started to learn the organ everything in her life begins to go wrong. I didn't see the book that way. I saw it as when she started to learn the organ she began to shake free of her bubble of how she thought everything was. She stops living in a fantasy world where everything is parties and sunshine and starts to see that not everything is how she thought they should be. Every time before her dream bubble is popped she shares with us how she thought they would be and even as you read it you know it is wishful thinking. In the end I like the reality better than the dream. The book is cute and funny. Because of the fact that Zoe is ten there is not really any romance. There is a short crush or two but that is all.My other favorite character had to have been Wheeler Diggs. However, while I did learn more about him than say the mother I did not learn what I had been biting my nails for since they alluded to it from the beginning: his home life. They make little mentions of how his home life might not be the best and how he is surprisingly skinny but the author never confirms or denies if anything is going on there.Finally I wish I could try some of the delicious cookies that are mentioned in the book or that I was able to learn how to play an instrument as fast as Zoe seemed to be able to.
  • (4/5)
    It was okay. I think its one of those books that is over-advertised and is judged by its cover. I don't think there is much of a story line.
  • (5/5)
    Zoe is a 10-year-old girl who dreams of one day playing the piano at Carnegie Hall... but when her father comes home with a strange organ instead of a baby grand, Zoe's dreams fall flat. But rather than indulge their daughter and take it back, they make a deal with her to pay for lessons. She may be learning organ versions of old TV hits, but it's still something! Meanwhile, her mother is a workaholic and never at home, and her father has severe agoraphobia and is terrified to leave the house (and spends his time at home getting diplomas from all those strange study-at-home courses you see advertised in magazines and on TV). So, things are far from perfect. But what I love, love, love about this novel is that -- even as strange as the characters seem -- the parents are real, make logical choices, and their daughter is a good kid who has clearly been raised right. Instead of taking the organ back, or Zoe raising a tantrum about it, they find a solution as a family. Zoe's parents also remind her that she wanted lessons and needs to practice because of it, and Zoe recognizes her parents' authority, even when she doesn't want to do what they say.In other words, we have a real family here that clearly loves each other. The parents aren't perfect, but they're trying, and how often do we see that in children's books these days? I also thought the idea of an agoraphobic parent was highly unique, as I've never seen that concept brought into a novel before. In fact, Zoe's father was one of the best characters I met in a book all year, and he has a fantastic sense of humor.And even better? The voice is perfect. I felt like I was reading something in a 10-year-old's voice, and not once did it seem to venture into 'older' territory. Very well done.I picked this book up on a whim at a Scholastic warehouse sale (I think it was $3), and didn't know what to expect. After reading it, I think this may be one of my favorite children's books, not just of this year, but ever. I wrote an email to the author to thank her for such a unique and wonderful story, and I hope to buy more copies to give away to my friends' children once they're a bit older. I hope to see more from this author in the future!
  • (5/5)
    Do you play the piano or organ? Do you have a wacky dad?If you do you relate to Zoe in a Crocked Kind of Perfect. Thisis a great book for fourth graders.
  • (4/5)
    How often do you come across young adult novels that feature organs? Come on! I mean the Perfectone D-60! And even more rare - how many young adult novels feature heroines that actually enjoy playing the organ? Well, not many - that's how many. But A Crooked Kind of Perfect is one - and it's a good one. From beginning to end it feels novel (as in original) and refreshing and fun. Here is a book that really IS for middle school girls. Not for their moms or their teachers or their librarians, but for them. It's got the snotty ex-best friend, the cute "bad-boy", the cool new friend, the odd but lovable teacher, plenty of baked goods, and the Perfectone Perform-O-Rama!
  • (4/5)
    Hilarious! Great for any reader who puts up with a lot from their parents and patiently waits for the opportunity to realize their dreams.
  • (4/5)
    Zoe Elias is not a popular girl, her father's neuroses keep him tucked into the house, and her mother is a workaholic. Although Zoe hopes to learn to play the piano, her father buys a low end organ. Yet, learning to play the piano unleashes a series of events that changes the lives of Zoe, her mother, and her father. A easy, breezy read.
  • (5/5)
    A deceptively easy and funny read for 4th to 6th graders with real emotional depth. It's about family, former BFF's, cliques, new friendships, and new possibilities.
  • (4/5)
    Zoe Elias dreams of playing the piano at Carnegie Hall. She's certain that just given the chance, she might turn out to be a prodigy. She's picturing playing recitals on a grand piano while elegant people dressed in their finest sit in the audience. Imagine her surprise when, instead of the piano she was so hoping for, her parents get her an organ. An organ that comes with lessons from Maybeline Person and her book of organ songs... Hits from the 70s. It's laugh out loud funny and be sure to scoop this one up if there's a young musician in the family. Or if there isn't. :)
  • (3/5)
    Zoe wants a piano. In her mind she considers herself a piano prodigy waiting to be discovered. She's just a baby grand away from Carnegie Hall. But when her easily-distracted dad is charged with procuring the instrument he returns home with a cheesy Perfectone D-60 organ, complete with electronic rhythm sections and lessons that feature television theme songs in its practice book. When her teacher discovers that Zoe has some talent she convinces her to enter the annual Perform-O-Rama competition. And much middle grade hilarity ensues.No, actually, it doesn't. What happens is much anxiety ensues, as Zoe is forced to attend the competition with her agoraphobic father who leaves poor Zoe in the care of her music teacher who, in turn, passes her off to another family she knows while he cowers in a hotel room. In that respect the book takes an unsettling turn because it really does feel the girl is at sea in the end. I'd like to say I thought this was a case of good writing but I can't imagine the author intended for the reader to feel anxiousness over her well being instead of the suspense of the competition.It's funny, because until I sat down to write this I hadn't thought about how unnerving the end of the book was. In fact, I'd read recently that some consider this to be the best middle grade book released this year, and I might have given it that if I hadn't started thinking about it. Finishing the book my only qualm had been that there is an inconsistency between Zoe being told there was no classical music available for her organ, and no music beyond the 1980s, when in fact both appear throughout the competition with little mention. I thought it too minor to point out.But what of the subplot at the beginning, where her best friend from the school year previous has dumped her ceremoniously for not being, well, Bratz enough? In the end it seems the only reason for her inclusion is for the sudden appearance of a certain baby grand at the end of the story and a good graphic for the cover. And what of that other strange subplot, the one with the boy who might be her boyfriend who hangs out with her dad all the time in the kitchen baking? Wait a minute, doesn't Zoe's mother use a mirror to read scores over the judges shoulders so she can calculate scores in the competition?Now that I think about it, I haven't encountered this much head-scratching since... The Higher Power of Lucky! This book is exactly what a librarian might consider to be the perfect middle grade reader after all! There aren't enough "serious issues" to really make this award-worthy, but if the Newbery committee proves me wrong you read it here first.So here's the thing. I read this because my youngest was hungry for something light and fluffy, something to read quickly between larger books, something to cleanse her palate. After I read it and felt I could recommend it to her she devoured it pretty much in a single sitting. It was perfect for the moment and easily forgotten when the moment was over, which was exactly what she wanted. I think that's good enough.
  • (5/5)
    A Crooked Kind of Perfect captures the voice of a ten year old girl- her anxieties, prides and mundane mental workings - with vivid, prose that's easy to identify with. The story moves swiftly, with very little schmaltz and is both funny and a little poignant. A great book for mother daughter book clubs and anyone who soon will be or ever was a 10 year old girl.
  • (4/5)
    Zoe is a funny and verbal 10 year old who dreams of playing the piano at Carnegie Hall. She may be a little odd, but so is everyone around her and her running commentary on her agoraphobic Dad, workaholic Mom and friends who are not always what they seem keeps the story bubbling along. The narrator of the audiobook is able to convey youth and energy without being overly perky.
  • (4/5)
    Zoe Elias is a ten year old girl who has high hopes of becoming a prodigy child. But how is she supposed to do a thing like that when her father so nicely brings home a prefectone D-60 instead of a brand new baby grand piano. When miss Person enters her into the annual perform-O-rama organ competition Zoe decides its no Carnegie hall but at least its something. With the help of her organ instructor and a little help from the school bully, wheeler, Zoe realizes that maybe just maybe she doesn’t need to play the piano for all her dreams to come true.I actually liked A crooked kind of perfect. It was a cute little story about following your dreams, in a crooked kind of way. I enjoyed it from start to finish.
  • (4/5)
    Narrated by Tai Alexandra Ricci. Zoe's perfect dream is to perform on a grand piano at Carnegie Hall. Instead, her father buys her a Perfectone D-60 organ accompanied by lessons in which she learns the hits of the '70s and old TV theme songs. It's not the perfect path she envisioned to achieve her goals but maybe it's the path she needed to travel. Tai Ricci nicely voices the exasperation Zoe feels whenever things aren't going well.
  • (5/5)
    A delightful read done in very short (one or two page) chapters of a pivotal time in a 10 year old girl's life. The main character, Zoe, oft called Goober or Zsa Zsa by her friend, Wheeler, is a delight and her struggle to fulfill her dreams is wonderful to share. I was particularly amused by the ejaculations her music teacher, Mabelline Person, crack me up.

    "Great mother of Mozart",
    "Sweet brother of Bach",
    "Mozart's postman",
    "Chopin's toaster", - (actually this is Zoe's)
    "Wagner's Aunt Alice",
    "Beethoven's barbershop"
  • (4/5)
    This was such a sweet, delightfully written book. I picked it up on the recommendation of A Mighty Girl, and I was not disappointed by this quick, charming read.
  • (4/5)
    A young girl has a dream of playing the piano at Carnegie Hall. Her parents plan to get her a piano, but unfortunately her dad (who suffers from severe anxiety) gets her an organ that he was certain was better (as said by the sales person). She gets upset, but still gives it a try and eventually realizes that, although it's not the piano it is still something fun, impressive, and worth the effort that she puts into it. This was a cute story and worth the listen, but not my favorite. I had a difficult time getting into it until about halfway through.
  • (4/5)
    I chose this one to inspire my sone Michael to practice the piano. The book was great... but he is now playing the trumpet!
  • (4/5)
    This is a very sweet little story about a young girl, Zoe, with a desire to play the piano. Not only does she want to play the piano, she wants to be a maestro! So her dad buys her an organ. She embraces her new instrument with as much enthusiasm as she can as she and her teacher prepare for her to perform in a competition. The story is about how a family that doesn’t quite fit the ideal, is actually pretty perfect in their own way. It’s very good and I highly recommend it.