cover image My Friend the Piano

My Friend the Piano

Catherine Cowan. HarperCollins, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13239-2

For this fantasy adventure of a musical instrument with a will of its own, Cowan (My Life with the Wave) taps into the classic experience of learning to play the piano, to the whimsical accompaniment of Hawkes's (The Poombah of Badoombah) full-bleed acrylic paintings. An unnamed narrator likes to bang away at the piano, which for her makes exquisite music (""At times the piano wept. At other times it shrieked with laughter""), but to her mother produces only cacophony. Despite all the girl's efforts to practice scales, plus repeated visits from the piano tuner, the narrator cannot perform well enough to please her mother. As the woman endeavors to rid the house of the piano, the girl helps her friend escape to the sea. In the beginning pages, Cowan get mired in wordy explanations, and never really develops the friendship between the girl and her piano before readers get caught up in the wild getaway ride. Instead, readers depend on Hawkes's dynamic personification of the instrument to carry them through: the piano sprouts purple bristles when the girl plays what her mother dictates; when it flees, its legs course through the streets like the limbs of a racehorse. While this may strike a familiar chord with fledgling pianists, the story may not be strong enough to carry them through to the final notes. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)