cover image Duet


Elise Broach, illus. by Ziyue Chen. Little, Brown/Ottaviano, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-31135-9

Narrated by Mirabelle, a goldfinch with an exceptional voice, this soulful story set near Boston offers a bird’s-eye view of three friends bound together by their passion for music. Mirabelle loves to listen to her once-famous pianist neighbor Mr. Starek, an emigrant from Poland, play the piano; he, in turn, delights in her singing. But when his sister dies, Mr. Starek grows despondent and ill until he takes on new student Michael Jin, who reads as East Asian, a rising sixth grader preparing for an upcoming Chopin competition that could “open doors.” Michael is initially reluctant to play, but when he does, his talent astonishes both Mirabelle and Mr. Starek. Over the next few weeks, Mirabelle attends the lessons, performing duets with Michael, learning the history of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin alongside that of French author George Sand and French painter Eugene Delacroix, and becoming involved in a mystery regarding a very old, very valuable piano. Rich with facts around goldfinches and music, Broach’s (the Masterpiece Adventure series) novel employs vivid descriptions (“It comes in a torrent, a rush of silvery notes cascading over one another”), unique characters, and carefully crafted suspense. Occasional b&w illustrations by Chen (Dancing with Daddy) depict the characters. Ages 8–12. (May)