“Four Seasons” by Jane Breskin Zalbin
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Told in four movements, Zalbin tells the story of 13-year-old Allegra Katz. As the daughter of a former opera star and a genius violinist, Allegra comes naturally to music with her instrument of choice being the piano. She has been playing since she was 4, and is one of a select handful of students accepted to the prestigious Julliard School of Music.
Ally is expected to eat, sleep and breathe piano. She must practice 4 hours every day, attend full-day Saturday classes, prepare for endless concerts, and “fit in” schoolwork wherever she can do so. Ally wants a regular life, with time to “hang” with her friends, but feels guilty. She wants to quit playing entirely, and maybe focus on getting a math scholarship, but doesn’t want to disappoint her parents. Her parents and music teachers all expect much from her, and Ally feels she must keep working harder and harder to meet those expectations.
As the seasons pass, Ally’s life gets more and more complicated, until the pressure she’s under causes her to make a decision that could cost her more than what she’d planned. Suddenly life is about music in a completely different way, and Ally will need to figure out what music really means to her.
“Four Seasons” is for readers who have fully immersed themselves in the musical experience as there are many references to musical terms, composers and methods of playing to which musicians would be able to relate.
Reviewed by Alma Ramos-McDermott; Library Teacher; Pollard Middle School, Needham, Massachusetts.
March 6, 2011