Emily's Piano

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An honest portrayal of a young girl's emotional journey amid family upheavals.

Nine-year-old Emily is trying to cope with her changing world. When her father and mother grow further apart, the family's piano -- Emily's link to the good times that once flooded her home -- is sold. She decides the key to the happiness her family used to share is the piano, and so she must find it.

Believing the instrument is most likely in a part of town where ...

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Overview

An honest portrayal of a young girl's emotional journey amid family upheavals.

Nine-year-old Emily is trying to cope with her changing world. When her father and mother grow further apart, the family's piano -- Emily's link to the good times that once flooded her home -- is sold. She decides the key to the happiness her family used to share is the piano, and so she must find it.

Believing the instrument is most likely in a part of town where rich people live, Emily sets out on her search. She knocks on many doors without success, but carries on, determined to end the darkness that has descended on her home. Finally a piano teacher gives her a lead. Though the days pass slowly, she eventually receives the anticipated call. "Be there Sunday at 1 p.m. sharp," she's told.

It turns out the piano is now in a convent, where it sits in the middle of a room, like royalty. Sister
Isabelle tells Emily she can come by any Sunday, and she can bring her mother too.

The first time Emily's mother sees the piano, she plays, sings, and cries. The darkness in their lives slowly tiptoes away as Emily and her mother rediscover happiness and the healing power music brings.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist - Hazel Rochman
The child's view of adult secrets is powerfully revealed in simple poetic language and sophisticated black-and-white artwork that shows anger and sorrow as well as love.
Canadian Materials, Vol. 12, No. 9 - Ruth Scales McMahon
The first person narrative is powerful and succinct... Readers are caught up in Emily's struggle to help her mother and her family. There is surprising depth to the character development in such a short novel.... The line drawings, which reflect the angst, intensity and joy expressed in the text, add to the reader's experience.
Children's Literature
Emily's world has turned topsy-turvy when she, her mother, and father move into a two-bedroom apartment. Her older sisters had already married and moved out. Her parents slept in separate rooms, because her father is in love with a woman he works with. Emily's mother cried when the piano left, and though most people thought it strange, Emily understood. Perhaps if Emily found the piano, everyone would be happy again. This small chapter book conveys Emily's raw emotions in her attempt to be happy again by her scheming to find the beloved piano. Emily is also concerned about her mother, especially with her bouts of depression. Complex black-and-white line drawings reflect Emily's world on almost every page, from the confusion of her sisters' visit, to the levity of piano happiness as Emily sprawls underneath and is soothed by the massive vibrations. The story does end happily, though Emily's situation does not really change. The piano is found and Emily's mother sparkles once again. Girls reading clubs will find this book inviting—sharing thoughts only girls can share about their mothers, fathers, sisters—and even their passions. 2005, Annick Press, and Ages 9 to 12.
—Elizabeth Young
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Emily's beloved piano has been sold, her mother has sunk into depression, her married older sisters whisper when they come to visit, and her father has finally left to live with another woman. Emily says, "Our family is leaking, cracking, and shaking all over-." So, remembering the piano as "happiness in a box," she decides to track it down by visiting the rich neighborhood and asking door to door. When that proves fruitless, a piano tuner helps her locate the instrument and she meets an old nun who gives lessons. Emily brings her mother to it, and playing it cheers her up and provides a teaching job. While the child helps to alleviate an otherwise bleak situation, young readers may be brought low by the loveless household and her sisters' and her father's mean behavior. Older readers may find Emily's self-sufficient and successful actions unbelievable. Jorisch's angular black line and ink-wash illustrations portray the crowded apartment and city situations with menace and gray foreboding. While not for every reader, some may find hope and strength in how one child deals with family upheaval.-Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781550379129
  • Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/3/2005
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlotte Gingras is the award-winning author of nine books for young readers. She lives in Montreal.

Stéphane Jorisch is the illustrator of more than a dozen books for children and a winner of multiple Governor General's Awards. He lives in Montreal.

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Table of Contents

Our mother cried
My hand hurt
About to collapse
As the world shrinks
My mean-mouthed sisters
The hill district
The cracked key
I feel like hitting my mom
I'm sorry, Emily
A big, fat tree
The last Sunday

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First Chapter

Our mother cried

The piano is gone. The flowered couch, too. And my parents' bed. We've gone in one direction, my grandma in another. It's a terrible monstrous move. The day before, I heard my father say to my mom, in a voice not to be argued with, "We'll sell the piano and some of the furniture. There won't be enough room in the new apartment."

It's true the piano was out of tune, abandoned at the back of the long living room. No one had played it for years. I was the only one who still visited it, stroking its sides, sitting under its belly to read or daydream.

In our home, we didn't celebrate Christmas or birthdays anymore. There was so much empty space, even with my grandma shut in her bedroom, that I could hear my steps echo in the hallway.

I didn't get to see the move. That day, one of my big sisters babysat me at her place and forced me to play with my whining nephew. "Emily," she ordered, "pick up the baby's toys. Emily, change the baby's diaper." I stood with my arms crossed, without moving, or speaking. My twin sisters treat me like their servant.

The next Sunday, my other sister said to her twin, "Wasn't it strange the way our mother cried when they took away the piano?" Of course she cried! My sisters are so clueless. They never understand anything.

I still wonder how the movers managed to get the piano out of the apartment. The front door wouldn't have been wide enough. Maybe they took it through the dining room window. But then, how did they get it down the winding staircase?

I miss our piano.

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