Ten-year-old Zoe Elias knows exactly how everything in her life is supposed to be. As narrator of A Crooked Kind of Perfect, she spells it out on the first page, with the help of first-time author Linda Urban. Zoe will become a child piano prodigy and perform in Carnegie Hall, dressed in a ball gown, tiara and elbow-length gloves.
Zoe's real life is anything but perfect, however. Mom is at her office all the time. Best friend Emma has ditched Zoe for another girl she met over the summer. Dad holes up in the house, earning correspondence course diplomas from Living Room University. When he ventures outside, things often go awry, like the time he bought 432 rolls of toilet paper.
Zoe is excited when Dad goes shopping for a piano until he returns with a wood-grained Perfectone D-60 electric organ plus six months of free lessons. Before Zoe knows it, she's agreed to compete in the Perform-O-Rama organ contest, only weeks away. While she practices every afternoon, her dad bakes cookies for his Bake Your Way to the Bank diploma, assisted by Wheeler Diggs, a kid from Zoe's school who followed her home on the bus.
There's plenty to love about A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Author Urban has a knack for delivering quirky character details with a 10-year-old's spin and creating a storyline that's fresh, a little wacky, yet still plausible. The first-person narration not only keeps the reader engaged in the action but also reveals a vulnerable side to Zoe. Urban has crafted an atypical framework for a common situation the child who feels like an outsider. In many children's books, the characters experience grueling and sometimes tragic circumstances, with lessons that can be sad or painful. Urban delivers her perfect life lessons with joy, originality and fun. Freelance writer Robin Wright Gunn lives perfectly happily in Savannah.