Summary: Duet by Elise Broach
In Duet, we meet a young goldfish, Mirabelle. Mirabelle lives with her mother and brothers in a nest next to a piano teacher’s house. Mr. Starek, the piano teacher, is now aged but has received a new student, Jin, who does not seem pleased to be taking lessons from Mr. Starek. After weeks of reluctance, Jin starts to play, and surprisingly, Mirabelle joins in, forcing Jin to notice her. Soon, the two begin to create duets together during Jin’s practice sessions. When Jin and Mirabelle find out that Mr. Starek’s late sister might have a special piano in her foreclosed home, they band together in a new way to investigate and solve a decades-old mystery about Frederick Chopin’s piano.
I don’t like most “animal books,” so I fully expected to be meh about this one, but boy was I surprised! I think two things made the difference for me with this one. First, the writing is really lovely — it’s charming, very classic-style, and enjoyable to read. Second, I had no idea where the story was going until we were well into the second half. The mystery kept me flipping the pages.
Another high point is that the story includes interesting goldfinch facts interspersed throughout. As unrealistic as it sounds, it’s also not magical realism — although it does require some suspension of disbelief. I loved watching Jin and Mirabelle bond (without her needing to talk). It was also fun because the story is told from Mirabelle’s perspective and I enjoyed her observations about the world around her.
There’s some history about music and Chopin, but I’d hate to give anything away. Finally, the book includes illustrations (around one or two per chapter), and I think it’d make a fantastic readaloud pick.
Overall: Duet by Elise Broach
Duet by Elise Broach is an enrapturing, unique story about music, friendship, history and birds — especially goldfinches. If you like unusual stories told from the perspective of animals, you’ll enjoy this one!