cover image Changing Tunes

Changing Tunes

Donna Jo Napoli. Dutton Books, $15.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45861-6

The talented Napoli (Stones in Water; Zel) shifts to a decidedly minor key for this middle-grade novel. Fifth-grader Eileen feels devastated when her father moves out, but she's in for another nasty surprise: he has taken the family piano with him. Eileen won second place in a county piano competition the year before; why neither parent would have discussed the removal of the piano with her ahead of time is the first--but not last--strain on credibility. The plot swings on familiar hinges. First, Eileen hides the news of her parents' separation from her best friend. Second, friendship with the kindly school custodian buoys her after her mother arranges for her to practice on the piano in the school auditorium (""Rickety, old, awful thing,"" she thinks sullenly). Third, she finds solace with an elderly neighbor, who begins to care for a newly adopted grandchild shortly after Eileen's dad takes the piano. And, none too surprisingly, a heart-to-heart conversation with her father softens her harsh judgment of him. The writing is competent, but readers who want a more convincing story about musicianship should hold out for Virginia Euwer Wolff's The Mozart Season; those who want a more searching look at the effects of divorce should try Paula Danziger's Amber Brown books. Ages 8-11. (June)