Piano Piano by David Cali
Illustrated by Eric Heliot
Translated from Italian by Randi Rivers
Every day at 3:00 pm Marcolino sits down in front of the piano to practice his scales. By 3:13 he's had enough and goes to watch cartoons on TV. A minute later, his mom makes him go back to practice piano. He hates playing the piano but he has to keep practicing because his mom wants him to become a grand pianist. She used to play when she was younger but now she plays the guilt card instead, telling Marcolino that she didn't become a grand pianist herself because after he was born, she didn't have any time to practice. Marcolino would rather be anything else but a pianist: a grand magician, a grand artist, a grand pirate, a grand karate champion.
The only day Marcelino gets to do something that doesn't involve the piano keys in on Friday, when he's grandfather takes him to the space museum. It is there that one day Marcelino tells his grandfather that he doesn't like playing the piano but has to because it is his fault that his mother never became a grand pianist. When his grandfather has Marcelino and his mother over for dinner, he shares with them a box of pictures of his mom when she was young. In those old photos she was always smiling, pretending to be a pirate or a pilot, performing magic and painting. That is except for one photo where she looked very grumpy, the one where she is playing the piano! The secret is out.
In Piano Piano, David is able to write a clever and entertaining story for kids that also holds a message for adults. The illustrations remind me of European comic books -like Tintin - which brings back great memories. They add a lot to the personalities of the charachters: the mom with the pointy nose and chest, Marcelino with the incomprehensible long bangs that stand up straight -another reminder of Tintin-, the grandfather with the pipe and rounded features. Some interesting details are carried throughout the book, like the skirt his mom is wearing now, which is exactly like the one she had in the picture of her as an unhappy child in front of a piano. The skirt pattern is also repeated in the curtains from that childhood image.
Piano Piano invites us to take it easy. To relax and not place so much pressure on the kids. Piano, means soft, easy, in music terms. So that's it, piano, piano, easy, softly.