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A Crooked Kind of Perfect Paperback – April 6, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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The uplifting and unforgettable New York Times bestselling, Schneider Award-winner that's perfect for fans of "Wonder." Hardcover | Kindle book | See more for ages 9-12
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–6—An impressive and poignant debut novel. Eleven-year-old Zoe dreams of giving piano recitals at Carnegie Hall. When her father purchases a Perfectone D-60, though, she must settle for the sounds of the organ rather than the distinguished sounds of a baby grand. Her organ teacher, Mabelline Person, notices the child's small talent for music and recommends her for the "Perfectone Perform-O-Rama"; she will play Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans." Accepting this new twist to her ambitions, Zoe must depend on a quirky support system: her father, who gets anxious when he leaves the house and who earns diplomas from Living Room University; her workaholic mother; and her classmate Wheeler, who follows Zoe home from school daily to spend time with her father, baking. Playing television theme songs from the '60s and '70s rather than Bach doesn't get Zoe down. Instead, aware of the stark difference between her dream and her reality, she forges ahead and, as an underdog, faces the uncertainty of entering the competition. In the end, resilient and resourceful Zoe finds perfection in the most imperfect and unique situations, and she shines. The refreshing writing is full of pearls of wisdom, and readers will relate to this fully developed character. The sensitive story is filled with hope and humor. It has a feel-good quality and a subtle message about how doing one's best and believing in oneself are what really matter.—Jennifer Cogan, Bucks County Free Library, Doylestown, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"What a generous spirit behind this book: one that celebrates the crooked quirks of its characters. I love Zoe's parents and her friend Wheeler, but most especially I love Zoe. She's perfect, in the most deliciously crooked kind of way."--Sharon Creech, Newbery Medal-winning author of Walk Two Moons

"An impressive and poignant debut novel . . . filled with hope and humor."--School Library Journal

"Immediately engaging . . . Zoe’s world is drawn with sometimes painful precision, her emotions are revealed with empathy, and her story unfolds realistically, without the miracles she hopes for, but with small, sometimes surprising changes . . . sometimes funny, sometimes tender, this is a promising debut."--Booklist

"Short, funny chapters full of exaggeration and exasperation provide lots of laughs . . . Readers with their own dreams, weird obsessions, and quirky hobbies will be heartened by the message that a few bumps, compromises, and sour notes along the way can pay off in a major key."--The Bulletin


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015206608X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152066086
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Humor is just so hard in children's books. You either crash too hard on the adult side of the equation (see: The Manny Files) or you end up going too far the other direction and end up ridiculously scatological (see: Out of Patience). The balance has to be perfect and, if you want your book to be memorable, also work in some real emotion, heart, and (God help us all) learning. Because this mix is so difficult, you rarely end up with a book quite as pleasant as Linda Urban's "A Crooked Kind of Perfect". First of all, it wins the 2007 Most Appropriate Title Award. Second, it has a firm grasp on hitting just the right tone. In a relatively blah year of realistic girl fiction, Urban's book is a cut above the rest.

Zoe has dreams you know. Dreams of owning a gorgeous piano, all shiny and black. Of performing before vast adoring audiences. Of being a prodigy and admired by people like her classically inclined mother. So what does she get instead? An organ. A Perfectone D-60 if you want to be precise. And it's not as if her school life is much of an improvement either. Her former best friend Emma Dent has informed her that Joella Tinstella is now her best friend right now, and to top it all off that bully Wheeler Diggs has somehow managed to ingratiate himself into her family. So when Zoe enters the Perform-O-Rama competition for organs she doesn't expect much. Fortunately for her, she finds that people can surprise you when you least expect them to. Sometimes for the bad, but also sometimes for the good.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book about taking joy in the special things about yourself and your family, even if they aren't conventionally perfect. Zoe Elias is in fifth grade. She has a workaholic mother (a state Controller) and a father who has difficulty coping with the world outside of his home. Zoe returns to school after the summer and finds that her best friend has abandoned her for someone cooler, and become consumed by lip gloss, CDs, and trendy clothes. What Zoe wants is to grow up to be a famous pianist, and play at Carnegie Hall. She dreams of elegant black concert pianos and hushed silences. Her reality, however, is somewhat different from her expectations (and involves a flamboyant organ).

There is much to like about this book. The writing is deceptively simple, with short paragraphs, and plenty of white space. At one point there is a chapter that only has one six-word sentence on the page. This is not a book that would intimidate an eight year old. And yet, Linda Urban manages to pack multiple levels of meaning into every sentence. She is a master of show, don't tell, and of presenting fully realized, three-dimensional characters. Her word selection is so perfect that the book almost feels like a verse novel (though it clearly isn't). Here is an example:

The senior center had one piano, and it was not grand. It was an almost-upright. It leaned to one side. I guessed it had been donated by a school because there were initials carved into its legs, and if you lifted the yellow scarf off the top, you could read all about a Mrs. Pushkin who smelled like fish. The bench was bowed from years of supporting senior citizen backsides. (Page 10)

I love: "It was an almost-upright".
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Format: Hardcover
There should be more books like Linda Urban's A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT.

Zoe Elias, a would-be piano prodigy, ends up not with a baby grand piano at Carnegie Hall but with a sighing, cha-cha, oompa organ at the Perform-O-Rama. Zoe's voice is funny and touching and true, as she paints the picture of her ten-year-old life. A coin-counting mother who works all the time. A father who's afraid to leave the house (but makes a mean maple tart). A best friend who ditches her. And that organ....

This book made me laugh out loud on the couch so many times my son put down THE LIGHTNING THIEF to listen for a while. It's a fantastic example of how a great middle grade book can turn the every day trials of a kid into an amazing story, just like Zoe makes music from whatever life dishes out to her.

I teach middle school, and sometimes I find that I have more choices for my readers who like edgy YA stories than I do for those kids who read well but aren't quite ready for teenager issues. A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT is a perfect kind of book for those readers, and I'm so happy I'll have it for them when school starts in a few weeks.
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Format: Hardcover
Once in awhile, a book comes along that grabs your heart from the beginning and doesn't let go, even long after the last page has been turned.

A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT, by Linda Urban, is one of those special, rare books.

It's a book about dreams, about family and friends, about music, and about making the most of what you've got.

The voice, the characters, the story - I loved it all. When I was done reading, I e-mailed the author and told her I would be heart-broken if this book doesn't win a bunch of awards. It really is that special.

I know a couple of girls who will be getting a copy of this book for their birthday in the next couple of months. I can't wait to share Zoe's story with them.
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