Piano Fingers by Caroline Magerl is an exquisite and imaginative story that is an inspirational delight to read. Caroline’s stunning poetic text coupled with enormously expressive and lively illustrations, full of whimsical details tell a relatable story with all of the drama and theatre of being on the precipice of acquiring a deeply desired new skill – the bumpy road that ensues and the rollercoaster of emotions involved. It is a story about believing in yourself and the power of possibility, as well as persevering in the face of adversity.
The main character in this story is Bea who comes from a long line of supremely talented musicians. Her older sister, Isla, plays the violin. Caroline has used metaphors to refer to the musical instruments, so Isla’s instrument has been dubbed the “honey fog machine”. Isla enchants with her captivating musical talents.
Bea, inspired by her musically accomplished family is ever so ready to make her mark in the music world. With her sister, she plays the triangle, “bink, bink, bink”. Caroline uses several neologisms throughout the story, such as “bink” and these deftly capture the musical sounds. Isla stops the duet to point out to Bea that she is not playing her triangle correctly.
This criticism does not deter Bea. In fact, she is struck with the empowering and thrilling realisation that she is destined for greater musical success.
Enter “baby mountain” a piano in another room, an invitation to Bea to play the keys. She is not alone as the reader meets Maestro Gus, a cat in a flamboyant red coat who encourages Bea with words of wisdom and faith in her abilities. The scene that unfolds with its evocative language and dramatic and vivid illustrations, paint a picture of all the feelings involved when one attempts something new – the trepidation, the leaning in cautiously and testing the waters and then that beautiful moment – success, in all its shining and richly rewarding glory. Bea discovers her talent, her “piano fingers” and now can realise her highly anticipated dream of making beautiful music with her older sister Isla.
The enchanting illustrations are full of movement, light and life and will captivate the reader. Bea often appears in a circular shape, reminiscent of a spotlight shining on her and this further highlights Bea’s musical journey and her insights.
Children and adults alike who have ever had a desire to learn a new skill, begin a hobby, join a sporting team, start a course or new adventure will relate to Bea’s story and road travelled, one that is not straight and can contain twists, turns and detours. Sometimes the road travelled is smooth making for big strides in the learning journey, other times it is bumpy and fraught with an uneasy feeling. Occasionally there are steep hills to climb and persevering to the top reaps its own kind of magical rewards. This is a story that explores the challenges, disappointment at times, despair that can come with attempting something unfamiliar, but, with a positive mindset and a willingness to continue to practise, sheer beauty and joy triumph. Rewards abound.