I just spent the last half hour sitting in my van. I wasn’t alone. I sat in my van with my nine and seven year old boys listening to the end of Linda Urban’s, Crooked Kind of Perfect. We couldn’t stop listening (or laughing) because the voice of the main character Zoe Elias, read by Tai Alexandra Ricci, keeps you wanting to know the outcome of this lovely story of imperfections.
Urban’s masterful use of voice, dialogue and humor keeps the conflicts light yet we know they would fill a firkin for Zoe. Zoe dreams of playing a baby grand piano at Carnegie hall but has to settle for a wheeze-bag organ. Her loving father has to overcome a fear of people, Anthropophobia, and his fear of leaving home, Agoraphobia. These fears are never spelled out as such, but developed in such a subtle and masterful way that the listener understands that this is just the way Zoe’s father IS without it being weird or bad. Zoe’s mother, a perfectionist in her work, learns to temper her expectations and find time for her daughter.
As in so many wonderful children’s novels, it is the careful use of detail, the sprinkling of realism, that places the listener in Zoe’s world. From the goings on at the Performorama! (Exclamation point!), to the endless list of cookies her father bakes, to the hysterical but sad flying lessons from Living Room University, Urban captures the surroundings of this working-class Michigan family beautifully.
Because I was listening to the book, instead of reading it, I was unsure of the format of the book. At times, the short chapters and rhythmic prose sounded more like poetry and I wondered if it was formatted in that way. Ricci does a great job capturing the almost-elevenness of Zoe. While she does not use “voices” for the other characters (like those on Harry Potter) her inflection is true to each character and Urban’s dialogue makes it easy to follow the the story.
My boys were hooked on the humor and the story. Because isn’t that what a good book is all about? Good story. Thank you Linda! and congrats! for making it on to the Maine Student Book Award List! for 2008-2009!!!