Crooked Kind of PerfectTitle: A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Author: Linda Urban
Narrator: Tai Alexandra Ricci
ISBN: 9780739359617
Discs: 3 CDs, 3 hours 17 minutes
Pages: 211 pages
Publisher/Date: Random House/Listening Library, c2007.

“I was supposed to play the piano.
The piano is a beautiful instrument.
People wera 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. […]
I play the organ.
A wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ.
The Perfectone D-60. (1-3)

In A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, Zoey Elias dreams of playing Carnegie Hall one day like her all time favorite pianist Vladimir Horowitz. But when she asks her dad for lessons, he signs her up for lessons with Lester Rennet, music teacher and motivational speaker who teaches on paper keyboards. When she finally convinces her dad that she needs a real piano, he goes out and buys an organ. This is the same dad who bought 432 rolls of toliet paper at one time and has earned dozens of “degrees” from online universities because he’s afraid of leaving the house. While this is going on, her workaholic mother is gone a lot, so classmate Wheeler Diggs follows Zoey home from school and eats her mom’s dinner. And her best friend has decided that Zoey is no longer her best friend. How is Zoey ever going to be ready for the Performa-Rama with all this going on?

This summary, even to me, sounds like a hodge podge of characters that shouldn’t fit. But first time author Linda Urban makes it work beautifully. Zoey’s dad, while strange, seems like a frustratingly cool father to have, with her mother being the realistic one of the group. The book was recognized by the Michigan Library Association and won the Mitten Award in 2008, although I missed her when she spoke at their Spring Institute this past April. It apparently also won a Cybil award. Tai Alexandra Ricci narrates beautifully, elliciting inflection that is unique, even when she is saying the same sentence or word several times in a row.

“Hear that? Do that part again.”
I do it again.
I do it again.
I do it again.
I do it again.
“Once more.”
I do it again. (81)

There’s a dry wit that Urban conveys extremely well, especially regarding the exasperation at practicing songs you don’t like on an instrument that you hate. Wheeler Diggs is probably the least quirky of all the characters, and seems to ground the story, even though it isn’t about him. But even he has a few surprises that readers don’t expect, and they work, especially him baking cakes with Zoey’s father. Although I’m torn whether Zoey and Wheeler should end up dating (if there ever was a sequel), it’s definitely a sweet friendship for both of them. We’re rooting for everyone at the end. The story rings true, even though we can’t picture anyone we know with enough toliet paper to last for years.

Another one that I have to add to my list of favorites for this year, and that I’ll be raving about to readers.