Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 246
Great things come in small packages.
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The author masterfully weaves classical music and deep emotions into this tale of an unlikely duet. The music is eloquently described by appealing to multiple senses that bring the scenes to life. Mirabelle is a goldfinch with a love for singing, and Michael is a piano prodigy preparing for an important Chopin competition. I’m not a classical music lover, but the tender, caring relationship between a bird and a gifted musician forms a sensitive bond that will touch readers’ hearts. Michael is supported by his two teachers, Mr. Starek and Emily, and Mirabelle takes a special interest in helping Michael. Michael notices Mirabelle outside the window one day, and their two worlds mesh when she learns to communicate her ideas. They both look forward to their private, warm-up ritual where their combined talents take Chopin’s music to levels they couldn’t imagine.
Mirabelle narrates the story and offers a creative view of human behavior mixed with life as a goldfinch. She relates how her mother builds a nest in preparation for laying eggs, foods they enjoy, safe places around the yard, and potential dangers, like Mr. Starek’s cat Harmony. Readers can learn a great deal about the habits of actual goldfinches. Mirabelle plays games with her two brothers, like Flight Club, but they don’t understand her infatuation with music. She doesn’t comprehend why Mr. Starek didn’t speak to his sister before she died when she lived so close by. She doesn’t understand his reluctance to visit the abandoned house, especially since it might contain a historically important piano.
Much of the book features Michael’s efforts to prepare for the Chopin Festival, but the story becomes more than that. Mr. Starek is having money problems due to large debts incurred by his sister. Her death left him with regrets and a responsibility to settle her estate. Her home becomes a source of mystery due to her extreme hoarding, and readers will wonder what kinds of treasures might await. Clues are found amid the dusty, cluttered chaos, and readers should be able to foresee how the problems will be resolved.
What didn’t work as well:
There are instances early in the book where information about Chopin and his life is shared. While interesting, this sometimes requires paragraphs or pages and diverts attention from the characters and story. I prefer to have the knowledge less noticeable and more blended into the story, so the message flows more naturally. However, the information is key in resolving Mr. Starek’s problem, and most of the plot is engaging and easy to read.
The Final Verdict:
Great things come in small packages. The author makes Chopin accessible to young readers through the special friendship between Michael and Mirabelle. The story evokes deep feelings and builds to an emotional climax. The book will especially appeal to lovers of animals and the piano, and I recommend you give it a shot.
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