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>Practice, practice, practice

>So whadda we think about Tiger Mom? It’s funny how meta everything gets so quickly now–outrage over Amy Chua’s article rapidly devolving into debate over the outrage, answered by Chua’s emendations and demurrals . . . . I wonder if she lets her kids read from the Newbery shelf only. “I don’t see a sticker on that book, Lulu. Where is the sticker? What? What? What is this TTYL? No! I’m burning it. Watch me burn it now. Bye-bye, TTYL, you bad book with no sticker. Hellooooo, A Gathering of Days!

One thing Chua is right about is piano practice. I’ve just read Jane Breskin Zalben’s new middle-school novel Four Seasons (Knopf), about Ally, a gifted kid who studies piano at The Julliard School (only amateurs, she tells us, refer to it as just plain Julliard). I can’t remember a book so honest about the demands made upon young serious musicians–by their teachers, their parents, themselves.  Ally’s parents have an interestingly complex job of raising her: her father is an active professional musician and her mom, well, her mom has a story of her own. On the one hand, they want Ally to be happy and have a “normal” life, etc., but on the other, they know how hard she is going to have to work if she wants to make the piano her life. Whether she does want to do that provides the novel with its theme, and it’s a truly engrossing exposition. Highly recommended to all those forced through “Lightly Row” and “The Spinning Song.”

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Anonymous says:

    >Would Four Seasons be appropriate for our 10 year old daughter who dreams of Julliard, and is still in the practicing stage? Or is it better for those looking back at those dreams?

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >Well, the heroine is twelve and has a tough time. Would the cold shower be bracing or off-putting to your daughter? In either case, I think she (and many kids) would enjoy the immersion into such an intense setting.

  3. >I gave up on piano lessons before I made it to Spinning Song. I *still* feel like all the cool kids got to play it.

  4. Roger Sutton says:

    >I can't remember if it's in John Thompson Book Two or Three, but Spinning Song was in the outer limits of my repertoire. Doesn't it feature in one of Phyllis Naylor's Alice books?

  5. >I can STILL play the Spinning Song (well, the start of it). I even soloed with it in church… Unfortunately, that was the peak of my talent.

  6. B Ready to Read says:

    >Ah, Tiger Mom. Just another variation on an theme of Pageant Mom, Stage Mom, Cheerleader Mom, Soccer Mom. Folks trying to live the childhood they never had or wanted more of. Yikes. What has happened to playing outside or just hanging around reading books upside down on the couch? Hmmm?

  7. Patrick Milne says:

    >I was placed in piano lessons very early in life and loathed them. One thing I remember my parents telling me was how much they wished they could sit down and play which seemed insane at the time. Why would anyone voluntarily spend hours practicing the piano? I quit as soon as I could. Twenty years later, it's one of my biggest regrets. I have a goal to go back to it as soon as I can afford lessons on my own again.

    This is my first time visiting your blog. It's excellent and I will be back often.

  8. Louise Brueggemann says:

    >I loved "The Spinning Song" – and lucky for me, I never felt forced to play the piano. When my piano lessons were stopped for a while due to a move, I taught myself, picking up a lot of bad habits along the way. I am now lucky enough to have my father's Steinway baby grand, and like him, wish that I could find the time to practice. One of my fondest memories is sitting on the floor under the piano while he played Chopin and Mozart.

  9. Carol Edwards says:

    >Ooh,I wish I had a parent who played Mozart and Chopin and we'd had a baby grand as my listening fort.

    I took lessons and practiced with reluctance both piano and violin. Painful to recall, but I learned reams about music and have strengthened my enjoyment of it, although I never became at all proficient.

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