Piano Fingers is a melodic book by brilliant author/illustrator extraordinaire Caroline Magerl. It’s a story about two sisters and creating music.
Bea comes from a big musical family who do big musical things, but Bea is still waiting for her music to start. Her older sister Isla plays the violin, a ‘honey fog machine,’ and she is very serious about her practice. Bea has ‘her own box of noisy noises’, but nothing quite sings for her yet. That is until she finds the piano, and meets maestro Gus, the ghost cat who lives inside the piano, that helps her find her song.
Carolyn Magerl is a master storyteller whose illustrations leave you in awe. Her word choice sings on the page and she always finds a way to construct sentences that surprise and delight. Her description of the instruments, such as the piano ‘a baby mountain’ that ‘gently smells of mouse’, are brilliant and original. I could quote the entire book and you would thank me for it. The story flows perfectly and feels like a dream. Isla really encapsulates the standard bossy older sister, who reprimands Bea when she is learning, while Bea is the rascally younger sibling who is cheeky and erratic and keen to try new things.
Magerl has a way of crossing over between worlds – of indoors and nature, real life and imagination, that transcend the page in magical ways into the reader’s mind. She creates works that merge fiction and truth where it feels possible that a ghost cat could live in a piano, a forest of flowers could bloom in a room, and a mouse could sit to watch. Her stories blend everyday life into imaginative possibilities that leave you feeling inspired. ‘There are whole symphonies up those sleeves. All you have to do is… pick a key.’ The onomatopoeic sound effects of her word choices plink and crashtinkle across the page making for a musical adventure.
Piano Fingers is a perfect book to follow on from her award-winning book Nop. It shows kids that not everything comes easily and you have to work at something to become good at it, with a little help from a friend or big sister. I highly recommend this beautiful crafted story.
This review first appeared over at the wonderful Kids Book Reviews!
Title: Piano Fingers
Author/Illustrator: Carolyn Magerl
Publisher: Walker Books
Ages: 3 – 6