Missing the Piano

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Just last week, Michael Tegoff was a normal fifteen-year-old guy.

He was looking forward to the new school year and planning to try out for the basketball team. Then his father and stepmother dumped him at St. Matthew's Military Academy.

St. Matthew's calls itself a place "where boys become men," but mike doesn't want to be the kind of man St Mathew's wants to make him. The ...
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Just last week, Michael Tegoff was a normal fifteen-year-old guy.

He was looking forward to the new school year and planning to try out for the basketball team. Then his father and stepmother dumped him at St. Matthew's Military Academy.

St. Matthew's calls itself a place "where boys become men," but mike doesn't want to be the kind of man St Mathew's wants to make him. The cadets are bullies, the rules make no sense, and Mike's only recourse is to just hang on tight and try not to forget there's a real world out past the school walls...

About the Author
Adam Rapp is a playwright as well as a novelist. His work has been produced and developed by the New York Theatre Workshop, the Steppenwolf Theater Company, New York City's Public Theatre, and The Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. Mr. Rapp lives in New York City. The Buffalo Tree is his second novel.

When Mike's mother and sister go on tour with "Les Miserables," Mike's father and his new wife enroll Mike in St. Matthew's Military Academy where, facing brutality and ignorance, he learns to survive.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in a all-boys military academy, this debut novel is "promising but not entirely successful," said PW. Ages 12-up. June
Children's Literature
At the beginning of the story, Mike's life is pretty good. But when his sister lands the lead in the touring company of "Les Miserables," Mike's life takes a sharp turn for the worse. He's sent to live with his father, but when his stepmother decides that Mike doesn't fit into their lifestyle, he's shipped off to a military academy. Despite the classy pictures his Dad shows him, the camp turns out to be a horror for Mike. He is harassed by the staff sergeant in the company he is assigned to¾an overweight teen on a power trip. His roommate is one of the few black cadets in a school filled with racist student/soldiers. Even the day-to-day rituals of the school, like saluting a pile of stones in remembrance of the founder, seem ridiculous to Mike. Abandoned by both of his parents, Mike is left to fight these battles on his own. While he never sees the silver lining in his cloud, he does begin to learn how to survive the rain. This was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and deserves the honor. It is a book for advanced readers because of subject matter and readability and would probably be too hard for anyone below ninth grade, but it is a thoughtful and insightful book that relates to young adults feelings of being trapped. An excellent read for teens. 2001, HarperTrophy/HarperCollins,
— Heather Robertson
The ALAN Review - Hazel K. Davis
Mike's world begins to fall apart when his younger sister gets an acting role with a touring company and Mike is sent to live with his father and his father's new wife. Because his stepmother does not want Mike around, he is enrolled in a Wisconsin military school, much to Mike's dismay. His only source of comfort is basketball. Despite run-ins with his cruel sergeant, the dismissal of his roommate, and a near nervous breakdown, Mike decides to stay at the school and make the best of it. Many of the situations and characters remind me of The Catcher in the Rye and The Chocolate War. The raw language, racial slurs, violence, and sexual comments could cause difficulty in many classrooms. However, this is one of those books that should have great appeal to young male readers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670853403
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/4/1994
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 5 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

To Lay Miss Rablays

I didn't realize how quickly the sun had started to set until Alice looped one up to the hoop from between her legs. The ball lingered around the rim for a couple of very long seconds, brushed off the red square, and managed to find its way through the net. The sky behind the backboard was about seven different colors. Alice's golden hair lifted from her head as she cheered the shot home.

We were playing H.O.R.S.E. Usually when I play Alice I shoot left-handed; partly because it gives my kid sister more of a chance to hang with me, and partly so I can work on my weaker-handed shots. Even though Alice is pretty small and shoots granny style, she's capable of getting on a roll and hitting three or four in a row. She has a knack for getting on a roll a lot.

Alice is five years younger than me. I always tell her that her name makes her sound like she's a third-shift waitress with microwaved hair and swollen ankles, but actually she's really pretty and smart for her age. Last year she did some summer stock in Sullivan, Illinois, where she played a young version of Wendy in Peter Pan. Not only did she know all of her zillion lines, but also everyone else's in the entire show. One performance, the stage manager got really steamed because she saw Alice lipping Captain Hook's monologue about walking the plank.

Mom chaperones Alice on all of her auditions. She usually does a number from The Secret Garden or Annie, like the “Tomorrow” song. She's done quite a bit of regional stuff at places like the Melodytop in Milwaukee and at the Marriott Lincolnshire.

Anyway, I was about toshoot one from behind the garbage can, when the phone rang. I lowered the ball and started to go into the house.

“Michael Jeffrey, the phone can wait,” Alice said. “We have a barn burner here. H-O-R-S to H-O-R-S.”

“Just keep your pants on, Sis. I'll be right back.”

I ran into the kitchen to answer the phone. It was Harisse, Alice's agent with the cartoon voice from the A Plus agency.

“Hi, Mike. Is your mother there?”

“No, she's not. She's at work. She went in for some extra hours today.”

“Well, do you think you can pass on a message for me?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Now this is a real screamer. You should probably write it down.”

“Okay. Hang on a second.” As I was rooting through the top drawer of the china cabinet for a pen, I looked out the window at Alice, who was practicing a shot from the free-throw line. Behind her, the sun was setting even lower and the sky had turned to a deep orange with stripes of purple. Alice grabbed one of her rebounds, took the ball in her hands, and held it above her head and started talking to it like it was a little baby.

After a moment I grabbed a napkin off the table and picked up the phone.

“Okay. I'm ready for the scream,” I said to Harisse. “Shoot.”

“Well,” she said, “your very talented baby sister just won the role of Little Cosette in the national tour of Les Misérables,” she said slowly. “Make sure you tell your mother Little Cosette. Pronounce that really well, okay Mike? Tell her to call my voicemail to confirm that she got the message. This is really big. Little Miss Alice Tegroff's gonna be a star.”

“Got it,” I said, trying to write it all down, tearing the napkin where the ballpoint wouldn't give any ink. “I'll call her at work.”

I called Mom's work and the switchboard operator patched me to her extension.

“Medical, Mrs. Tegroff.”

“Mom,” I said. “Guess who just called? You're not gonna believe it.”

“Was it your father? The child support?”

“No, Mom. It wasn't Dad,” I said. “It was Wilma Flintstone.”


“The agent,” I said.

Mom started chopping her breaths. I thought she was going to hyperventilate.

“What, Mikey. What? Tell me,” she panted. “Did Alice get something?! Tell me!”

“Jesus, Mom, calm down. Calm down before you wake the Fleishmans.” The Fleishmans are these people who live next door and sleep all the time. Their curtains are always drawn.

“Michael Jeffrey! You tell me this instant, or I'm gonna take the pancake turner to your butt when I get home.”

“Oh, jeez, Mom. Don't scare me,” I said. “You're too frightening to behold.”

“C'mon Mikey,” Mom pleaded, “tell me. Please.”

“Are you gonna get me the new Air Jordans?”

“Whatever, Mike. Just tell me what's going on.”

“Okay. Brace yourself. Prepare for anything, Mom. You know the business of show business, anything could happen. You say so yourself.” I had to ham it up a bit more. Mom likes melodrama. “Alice just got the part of Little Cosette in Lay Miss Rablays,” I said.

“In what?”

“Lay Miss Rablays.”

“You mean Les Misérables?! Oh my God! Jeezus Christmas, Michael! You know what this means?”

“Harisse wants you to call her voicemail and — ”

Before I could finish, Mom started spazzing out, hollering these frenzied jungle noises that yaks and baboons make on Wild Kingdom. I even heard the phone drop and scramble across the floor and all of the guards rushing to her rescue, probably expecting to find her bra ripped off, or an inmate torturing her with a toothbrush or something. Finally, she came back on the phone, panting.

“Okay, Mike. I'm gonna try and get off early. Marna might be able to come in for me. I promised the new receptionist that I'd go to that garage sale on Rooney Drive with her, but I'll try to be home early...

Missing the Piano. Copyright © by Adam Rapp. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2003

    Uprooted Novel for teens

    I am a 14 year old in the middle school and in Language arts we were reading Uprooted books. This was a wonderful book to read. Although couldn't be passed out to others because of the language and the maturity. Great book though!!! I would recommend this! I also read Catalyst for the unit. Try um out! Any other books you would like to see if I've read or just some good books I should read email me

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