Thursday, October 14, 2010

Piano, Piano

Piano PianoPiano, Piano by Davide Cali, illustrated by Eric Heliot, Charlesbridge, 2007

My oldest child does not play an instrument. It’s not that I don’t want him to or that his father and I don’t think he has any musical gifts. In fact, this particular child of mine is the most likely of the three to break into song at any given moment. But he has also insisted from a very early age that he doesn’t want to play an instrument. He is very sure about this; he wavered once, for a week, last spring when he had his heart set on playing tuba, but he has otherwise maintained his I-do-not-want-to-take-lessons position for years.

I struggle with this. I feel guilty and unsure, wondering if we should really let him make that decision for himself. I don’t care if any of our kids become professional musicians, but it’s important to me to offer them music lessons as part of their education. I often feel like I have failed my son in this way. I was explaining this to him a few months ago when he very sweetly told me, “But Mom, I have other things.” His sisters’ eyes shine when they play violin—they may not always like the work, but they take joy in being able to play. His eyes shine when he is showing me the pictures he has taken, when he talks about books, when he’s on the computer, or when he is doing Tae-kwondo. He’s right, he does have other things. He steadily loves the things he loves, and he is carefully working out who he was made to be. Trusting that is not easy, but I’m working on it.

All that to say, I thought Piano, Piano was a really neat book. Marcolino hates practicing piano, but he does it for his mother. He dreams of doing other things. His mom wants him to play because she wasn’t able to fulfill her own dreams. When his grandfather figures out what is going on he reveals something neither mother nor son is aware of, and negotiates a solution that makes everybody happy. The personalities and relationships in this story are endearing. The mother isn’t perfect, but she wants what’s best for her son. The son tries hard to please his mother, but he knows who he is. The grandfather has a lot of warmth with his wisdom, and handles the conflict between his daughter and grandson beautifully. And the way the author treats the whole situation shows a lot of understanding for everyone involved. He speaks to the dreams and desires of both mother and son in a way that validates them both without being sappy or sounding like a morality tale—a nice sort of thing to snuggle up with your child and read together.

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