cover image Piano


William Miller. Lee & Low Books, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-880000-98-4

Set in the early 1900s, Miller's (Night Golf) ultimately tender story opens on an unconvincing note. Tia, an African-American girl, loves music so much that ""when she heard music, she forgot where she lived, how old she was, and where she went to school."" One steamy summer day, walking through the white section of town in search of ""new sounds, different music,"" she hears a melody that makes her think of ""castles, mountains, and deep new snow."" Fortunately, the author drops the hyperbole and flowery language as his story takes a more credible turn: Tia accepts a job as maid to the woman whose house is the source of the tantalizing music. Miss Hartwell has a piano as well as a phonograph and agrees to teach Tia notes and scales. Her hands, however, are painfully stiff. Tia offers to rub them with warm, salty water, as she does for her mother who works in the cotton mill. In an ending that just barely avoids the overly sentimental, Tia's employer returns the favor when the girl's own fingers ache after a day of heavy housework. Though some portraits of characters are wooden, Keeter's (I'm a Girl) oil paintings for the most part capture the deepening bond between these unlikely friends. Ages 4-up. (June)