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Four Seasons Hardcover – February 8, 2011
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Just thinking of giving up the piano makes me break out in hives. Big fat red ones. But I think about it all the time. Allegra Katz—Alley Cat to her mother, just plain Ally to her friends—is struggling to decide whether music is really worth giving up her Saturdays with BFF Opal and just being a regular kid. As Ally moves through Juilliard’s precollege program and a Vermont summer music camp, Zalben explores the life of young, gifted musicians who are yearning to experience more than music and who must negotiate with parents who push in typically high-achieving fashion. Zalben’s peripheral characters are just as compelling as Ally. Yes, her parents are controlling, but they are loving and dimensional, as are acerbic and demanding Miss Pringle, the archetypal music teacher, and Ally’s few friends, who provide sparks of joy, occasional jealousy, and support. Pair this memorable title with Virginia Euwer Wolff’s classic celebration and acknowledgment of the challenges and opportunities of growing up gifted, The Mozart Season (1991). Grades 6-9. --Frances Bradburn
"Pair this memorable title with Wolff's classic celebration and acknowledgment of the challenges and opportunities of growing up gifted, The Mozart Season." - ALA Booklist
"Author/artist with more than 50 books draws on her understanding of music and adolescence to create a memorable portrait." - Magazine of Queens College
"Intimate story shows how one middle-schooler survive's by listening to her heart." - Publisher's Weekly
"Perceptive and reassuring novel that will hit readers where they live." - Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
*starred Jewish Book World
Jacket Blurb by Judy Blume
"I loved the book! Full of wisdom, heart and the truth of what it is to be human. Ally's journey is pitch-perfect for her age, but also speaks to the journey we travel throughout our lives. I was drawn to all the characters...Four Seasons would do so much more to help kids through dark times, whether their own or the world's - Ally does indeed "go through" in order to find her way out... a fabulous read, characters I hated to leave, and a journey that had me in its grip from beginning to end." - James Howe /author of Bunnicula
"I devoured Four Seasons in one gulp. Jane Breskin Zalben so convincingly inhabits the psyche of the thirteen-year-old piano prodigy, you might think it was written by a teenager.”—Judith Kogan, author of Nothing but the Best: The Struggle for Perfection at the Julliard School
"A fascinating life lesson--one that resonated with me personally. Sometimes you have to destroy who you are to create the next you. Readers will be captivated by Ally's musical journey, and in her personal journey, they will see themselves. What a great story! I loved the book.”—Gordon Korman, coauthor of the 39 Clues series
"Heartfelt, lyrical, and humorous, with unforgettable, true-to-life characters living lives we don't get to read about every day.”—Judy Blume
"Offering an insider's peek at the competitive world of gifted young performers, where the pressure to be perfect can become all-consuming, this intimate story shows how one middle schooler survives by listening to her heart.”—Publishers Weekly
"Pair this memorable debut with Virginia Euwer Wolff’s classic celebration and acknowledgment of the challenges and opportunities of growing up gifted, The Mozart Season (1991)."—Booklist
"An involving and compassionate story of a young girl in crisis."—The Horn Book
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Top customer reviews
Ally (short for Allegra; get it, like allegro?) has been playing piano since she was four years old. Music is in her blood. Her is a vocalist and her father is a professional violinist. She cant even remember life without practicing for four hours a day, constantly being critisized by her teacher, and competing with some of the people she call friends. Yet, somehow, this spring, shes starting to doubt all of these things are right for her. But she barely has time to think about it; Ally studies at the julliard school, where every concert, even the 'fun ones' can make or break your career. She dosent have time to sit around thinking about quitting.
In the summer she follows her teacher to a kind of sleepaway camp for musical prodigies. It has never bothered her before, not even the summer before when she first got thoughts about quitting. But the six weeks seems a lot longer when one of her best friends kisses her the weekend before ( talk about bad timing) and her roomate and so called friend starts dating her older crush, Alex. She cant bring herself to practice with her broken heart so she bails herself out of the end of the summer concert and lies to her parents about it.
In the fall she stops practicing at all and fakes sick. Finally the pressure has cracked her.
In the winter she finally figures out what music really means to her.
Emotional, heart wrenching, and inspiring, i would recommed this book to anyone and everyone.
You have to audition to get into the program, and to stay in the program you have to live and breathe music. She needs to practice at least six hours a day, and she goes to lessons during the week and all day on Saturdays. Her teacher wants her to quit her public school and be home-schooled so she will have even more time to practice.
Ally isn't buying this anymore. She realizes that she is missing out on being a kid. She wants to spend a Saturday hanging out with her best friend and her almost-boyfriend. But her parents are into music, too. Her dad makes his living playing the violin and her mother sings. They don't want her to give up her dream.
Ally is confused and doesn't know what she wants to do. She has a love of music but she also has a love of mathematics. The story in FOUR SEASONS is not lighthearted. This tale tells about how stressed kids can be who are over-programmed in life, and how that stress can cause many problems for them. I really enjoyed this book and hope that many others will, too.
Reviewed by: Marta Morrison