By T. Katz.
(Softcover; Lulu Press, 2014)
Review by Francis DiMenno
This is a children’s book which sets out to teach the fledgling musician a few of the more important musical terms, and to encourage them to put in the hard work of mastering a musical instrument by means of consistent and thoughtful practice. It succeeds in this aim, mostly by using the well-worn trope of creating a character, Priscilla, who loathes her piano lessons. She is also plagued by her mean older brother; her practical and stubborn workaholic father; her demanding music teacher, and her challenging studies. Only her mother provides a safe haven from all the sturm und drang (mostly by stuffing her daughter with sugary treats, but that’s beside the point). Like a standard television ad campaign, this book works along the following lines: Product-related crisis; product introduction, and crisis resolution. In this case, the product which is introduced is the spirit of Pythagoras, dressed in an implausible tuxedo and seemingly omniscient regarding all categories of classical music. This magical helper (another well-worn trope) introduces Priscilla to musical terminology and dispenses spirited, so to speak, pep talks designed to wear away her resistance to doing her keyboard exercises. The drama in all this consists mainly of the working class Italian father who had to quit studying guitar at the age of 12 in order to support his family. In 1972? That’s rather hard to swallow. But this book is not designed to make you think too hard. It’s mainly an anodyne and only mildly didactic romp through the trials and tribulations of middle school, with some musical terminology thrown in. Spoiler: We come to find out that eventually the mother and the daughter manage to make the iron-assed and hard-hearted father modify his ways somewhat. He turns out to be… a Carol King fan. Wow. (I definitely didn’t see that coming.)
(Editor’s note: T. Katz is his is not well-know Boston musician Tim Catz)