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A Crooked Kind of Perfect‘s cheery cover caught my eye at the library the other day. I read the front flap, saw it was about a girl who wants to learn to play the piano and become a prodigy, but somehow ends up with a wheezy-bag organ (!!!), and promptly stuck it in the stack of books in my arms. And so, it came home with me, along with altogether too many new books.

Zoe is almost eleven years old and knows that if she just got a baby grand piano, she’ll turn out to be a tiara wearing prodigy who will someday play in Carnegie Hall. But when her dad gets her a Perfectone D-60 – a “wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ” – and six months of lessons in learning Greatest Hits from the ’60s! and ’70s! well, who ever played a Perfectone D-60 in Carnegie Hall? Talk about dreams going splat, a Performe-O-Rama nonewithstanding.

Her best friend announces that she has a new best friend. Her mom is a workaholic who works late nights. And the toughest boy in school starts hanging out and baking cookies – cookies! – with her dad, who hardly ever leaves the house for fear of getting lost or having to deal with busy places. Can life get any weirder or farther from the perfect picture in her mind? And what about all her dreams?

Zoe is a spunky heroine that you can’t help but love. Linda Urban creates a fantastic story, phrased and written almost like poetry. It’s full of heart and humor. I will admit that several parts made me giggle like a lunatic – including a Star Wars reference and a little glimpse of the television show “Monk.” And I will admit that I was tickled by Zoe’s big dreams, the dramatic details she dreams up.

Favorite quotes:

When you play the piano, you have to get the heart right. Which is harder than getting the notes right.

Each note can only be right in one way. A B-flat is a B-flat is a B-flat. A robot can get a B-flat right.

But getting the heart right is something only a person can do. And the ways to do it are as many and as different as there are people in the world.

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