Review of Duet

Duet Duet
by Elise Broach; illus. by Ziyue Chen
Intermediate    Ottaviano/Little, Brown    304 pp.    g
5/22    978-0-316-31135-9    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-31155-7    $9.99

Mirabelle, a goldfinch with a sparkling personality, narrates this engaging music-focused mystery con brio. She attributes her excellent taste in music to listening through the window to a world-renowned pianist, and she’s intrigued by his unappreciative, sulky new student, Michael. When Michael finally tries out the piano, she can’t resist singing along with him to Chopin’s Minute Waltz: “It’s as if the song is singing me…Am I still made of bones and skin and feathers? No. I am only song.” Mirabelle’s singing inspires Michael, and the two continue their duets as Michael prepares for a Chopin contest. Broach skillfully incorporates bits of bird lore and information about both Chopin (including the macabre story of his heart) and his life partner, George Sand. As in Broach’s previous books Masterpiece (rev. 11/08) and Shakespeare’s Secret, a historic object is missing—this time, Chopin’s piano. The pace is brisk, and Mirabelle faces multiple dilemmas (beyond her secret duets), involving newly hatched siblings, a dangerous cat, and a desperately ill man. Broach gives her heroine true self-determination and emotional growth, as the little bird ponders her situation: “What’s the difference between a secret and a lie? A secret probably feels like a lie to someone who loves you.” A final note sorts out historical fact from fiction.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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