Four Seasons (fiction)

Today is “Let It Go Day”, as urges folks “Whatever it is that’s been grabbing your gut or your psyche, let it go. Just let it go. It’ll be a better day afterwards.”

Ally is having an awful time letting things go. After all, piano is her whole life. Except that perhaps it isn’t – maybe a little time with friends or an occasional sleepover would also be good for a 13 year old who happens to play piano like an angel.

Thankfully, Ally doesn’t have “helicopter parents” or “stage-manager parents” always hovering over her, pushing her to practice-practice-practice, win-win-win. Her parents are both talented musicians and know the dedication that it takes to succeed in such a competitive field, yet they somehow miss the signs that Ally could crumble under the strain.

A fascinating look into the demanding world of classical pianists, into the psyche of super-talented youth, into the gaping void of “what now?”

Book info: Four Seasons / Jane Breskin Zalban. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: As a piano student at Julliard, Allegra must practice 6 hours every day and attend music classes all day Saturday. But the pressure is so intense that Ally wonders if she could stop. Just stop playing the piano, her chosen instrument since age 4.

Child of two wonderful musicians, Ally has a true gift for the piano, yet still wants what normal 13 year olds have – friends, sleepovers, time to relax. Her famous piano teacher is demanding and stern, quick to remind her about the 7 year olds at the school who have already won international piano competitions.

When she finally has time to talk to a nice guy from her regular school, Ally starts thinking about whether playing the piano competitively is worth it. After a disastrous summer music camp festival, who is more surprised at the choices she begins to make: her best friend? Her parents? Her piano teacher? Ally?

Much like her beloved Vivaldi concerto, Ally’s story has four distinct sections. Can the tension of these four seasons turn life into joy? (One of 5,000 books recommended on

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