I’m sitting at the side of the YMCA pool watching my 2-year-old, who has just learned what “natural consequence” means by goofing off instead of listening to his instructor and falling in the pool. I watched him struggle under the water for a few seconds while smiling an “I’m-sorry-and-this-will-teach-him-and-did-you-know-I-used-to-be-a-teacher-and-I-feel-your-pain” kind of smile at the instructor, who is running down to the shallow end, dragging another one of his students with him, to rescue my son.
It’s not that I enjoyed watching him suffer, per se, but the teacher clearly had it under control, and frankly, it served my son right. Maybe tonight he’d listen to me when it was time to put on the PJs. (That was yesterday, actually, and last night, and I can tell you the lesson didn’t trascend activities, but he was, at least, more compliant for the remainder of the lesson.)
At any rate, there I am, nine months pregnant and completely uncomfortable. I’m sitting in this chair and wish I could just be floating in a hot tub. My baby is kicking like crazy and my belly is sticking out the bottom of my shirt because none of my pregnancy shirts fit me anymore but I’m not about to buy more when the kid could come out any day now. And it’s not like a stretch-marked pregnant belly is anything pretty to look at.
So I’m trying to fade into the background, but this is hard because the book I am trying to read is hysterically funny. I mean laugh-out-loud funny, and I don’t usually laugh out loud at even the funniest of books. But I can’t help it–I’m trying to hold it in and I’m not. And I wonder if I should save the book for home where I can roll on the floor in private, but that would mean putting it down which I’m not willing to do. So I just sit there, a bloated, uncomfortable blob laughing hysterically–and way too loudly–at my own risk.
I found this book because it was recommended by a fellow Goodreads reader. And I am so glad I did. It’s a debut novel, which makes it all the better!
Summary and Review:
Zoe is going to be a famous piano player when she grows up. She’s going to play in Carnegie Hall. The only thing standing between her and this goal–and she considers it a minor thing–is that she doesn’t have a piano and has never taken a lesson, practiced, or played one. But Zoe is a spunky, wonderful character and these facts are not going to bring her down. One day, however, her family decides to invest in a used piano for Zoe and sends her dad to the mall.
Now, Zoe’s dad is another wonderful character. Usually, Middle Grade and Young Adult books that have a “different” or “special needs” character have those traits in one of the kids. But in this book, it is Zoe’s dad who is a special needs adult. He spends most of his time–no, all of his time–in his living room studying mail-order courses and accumulating what can only be described as useless degrees. He often has to drive Zoe around town when her mom is working and they inevitably get lost, having to call Marty at the auto shop, who enjoys the challenge of trying to figure out where they are and get them home.
Zoe’s dad doesn’t like being around people, noises, or the busy-ness of everyday life and when he gets to the mall to buy the piano, he is immediately overwhelmed. He ends up in the grips of an organ salesman and comes home with an organ–the Perfectone D60, faux wood finish and all. Zoe is NOT impressed, but true to her good spirit, she begins her free lessons which came with the organ.
The book, told from Zoe’s wonderful perspective and great sense of humor, follows Zoe at home and at school, through the trials of learning an instrument, hanging out with her family, being ditched by her best friend (a girl who lives in the “East Eastside” as opposed to just the “Eastside” where Zoe’s modest house resides), and many other adventures of school, home, and music.
You will absolutely fall in love with Zoe, with her dad, and with the school bully she starts to get to know. This is a wonderful story, with wonderful heart. And I dare you not to laugh out loud.
Follow Up With The Kids
If you are a mom reading this with your daughter, I think there is a lot of things you can talk about. Enjoy the book and the conversations it can bring. This is a honest look at middle school life and the chance to talk about some of these things through the lens of a character rather than the real life kids your daughter knows will make the conversation all the more safe, and usually because of this, all the more meaningful. Here are some questions to consider:
Zoe’s dad’s issues prevent her from doing a lot of things other kids might be able to do…how does she learn to deal with that? Many kids would not be so tolerant…what makes her so?
What was it like at her former best friend’s surprise party? Has your daughter ever been in a situation like that and on which side? What does she think about this? Do your daughter and her friends have an equivalent of a “brat” t-shirt? (This takes it away from the comfort of the character-driven conversation and not every kid will be agreeable to that. If you think yours won’t be, stick to the conversation about the party in the book. Chances are, she will still be talking from her own experiences. That is, after all, how we read a book.)
What motivates Wheeler to keep coming over to Zoe’s house and study and bake with her dad? What do you think his life is like at home and how is it different from the persona he plays at school?