Gr 6-9-Elsie has her career path all mapped out: she will become the principal French horn player for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, just like her father and grandfather. The 13-year-old's life has revolved around this single focus for years. It hasn't left much time or space for learning to read people or navigate social situations. All that changes when she grudgingly joins marching band and, against all odds, falls in love with it. This self-absorbed, socially awkward narrator who celebrates a good day by cranking out Beethoven on the stereo will present a few hurdles for many readers. The best potential audience will be kids who have at least a passing knowledge of music. Those who get past Elsie's obsession with the French horn and the fact that she turns snappish under pressure will be sure to identify with the scenes of mortal embarrassment that are the hallmarks of young teen life. Who wouldn't want to die on the spot if dubbed "Zombie Chicken" by a whole group of people you just met and with whom you'll be spending the next nine months? While this novel isn't for everyone, it has humor, heart, and a touch of romance that will provide ample fodder for booktalks.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, IL (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Ninth-grader Elsie Wyatt shouldn't even be in marching band: they don't have French horns, her instrument of choice, on the field; they blare music rather than play it; and who wants to be in a group where your nickname is Chicken, anyway? But to get into a prestigious orchestra camp, Elsie needs an ensemble group on her resume, and what starts out as pure torture progresses through more torture until it ends up being a new musical home. Funny, warm, and musically geeky, this book may actually have as much appeal for band parents as for adolescent readers. Elsie is believably sardonic in ways only a 13-year-old can be, and Dionne's portrait of band life is right on target. With only a rare flat note, this unabashedly feel-good story makes an excellent title for intergenerational book groups. Hand this to girls in between Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice books and Joan Bauer's fabulous heroines, or maybe send it home with your own band geeks.--Welch, Cindy Copyright 2010 Booklist