cover image SKY: A Novel in Three Sets and an Encore

SKY: A Novel in Three Sets and an Encore

Roderick Townley, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $16.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85712-6

Set in New York City in 1959, this lively novel introduces jazz pianist Alec (Sky) Schuyler, a misunderstood 15-year-old with whom contemporary readers can relate. While Sky remains "invisible" and "inaudible" to most of his private-school classmates on New York's Upper West Side, he is one cool cat among his avant-garde circle of friends—fellow band members Max the drummer, bass player Larry and cheerleader Suze, who doubles as the boys' band manager. But Sky's widower father, a conservative, hardworking man, does not appreciate his son's passion. When he catches Sky sneaking back from hearing Count Basie in the middle of the night, his father takes away his prized possession: the piano that once belonged to his mother. Sky eventually runs away and roams the streets of Manhattan, practicing piano whenever he can at a local church. Circumstance brings him together with Art Olmedo, a renowned blind jazz pianist, whose health is rapidly declining and who takes Sky under his wing. From Olmedo, Sky learns some important lessons about both music and life. Dropping references to 1950s artists (Thelonious Monk, Lester Young, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg) and conjuring colorful images of New York streets and nightclubs, Townley (The Great Good Thing ) brings the beatnik era to life while expressing timeless, universal themes about the generation gap. Budding musicians interested in innovative new sounds will especially be in tune with Sky as he stubbornly and energetically refuses to compromise his dreams. Ages 12-up. (July)