A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Packed with information and detail about subjects that may be new to many readers -- from classical music, composers, instruments, and piano contests to the lives and habits of birds. Lots of detail about the lives and works of 19th century friends Frederic Chopin, George Sand (a woman and famous author of the day), and painter Eugene Delacroix.
Strong messages of perseverance and hard work to excel and develop your talents -- and also to solve problems and help loved ones. Joyous celebration of those ecstatic mind-meld moments of musical collaboration. Family, friendship, and loyalty are strong themes.
Positive Role Models
Tween piano prodigy Michael starts out sulky and unwilling but finds joy and inspiration in Chopin's music and kindness of his teachers. Young goldfinch Mirabelle is excitable and full of herself, also a joyous singer and musical collaborator with Michael. Mr. Starek is a wise, nurturing teacher; Emily, his lifelong piano teacher who's now in college, is also notable for her kindness and wisdom with a student far more gifted than herself. Michael's mom is determined, competitive, supportive; Mirabelle's mom takes excellent care of her older "kids" and also of the family's new babies. In the past, composer Chopin astonishes everyone by overcoming life-threatening health issues to create a large and beloved collection of music. At one point, kids and birds do a bit of housebreaking to access the foreclosed home of a deceased family member.
Characters past and present take on gender stereotypes. In the 19th century, woman author George Sand dresses as a man, because life was a lot more interesting and options more plentiful for men. In the present, goldfinch Mirabelle is determined to overcome the stereotype that only male birds are good singers. Professor Starek and composer Chopin both came from Poland; Michael and his family are East Asian American.
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Violence & Scariness
Mirabelle, a goldfinch, has lost a family member to a character's cat, and she and her brothers have some narrow escapes. She also notes that some birds eat other birds. In recent past, a character's sister has died and he's still grieving. Composer Chopin's ill health, looming death, and their influence on his music are a strong theme -- as is the fact that after his death his heart was preserved and returned to his native Poland.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
As part of Duet's deep dive into the life and work of the composer Chopin, we learn that he and the author George Sand (a woman) were lovers and inspired each other's work. Mirabelle's father -- described by her mom as a "rolling stone" -- isn't in the picture, which the author notes in an afterword isn't typical of goldfinch dads, who are usually devoted parents.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In the past, author George Sand is known for drinking, smoking, and gambling just like all the young men she hangs out with.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Duet, by Masterpiece author Elise Broach, is a tale of the friendship and musical collaboration between Michael, a tween piano prodigy, and Mirabelle, the narrator, who's a bird. Mirabelle is a goldfinch and determined to be a fabulous singer -- in spite of the fact that only boy goldfinches are supposed to be great singers. The story takes a deep dive into the life and work of composer Frederic Chopin, whose piano pieces Michael is practicing for an upcoming competition. Readers also learn much about the lives and habits of birds, especially goldfinches. There's a mystery, as kids and adults seek a long-lost piano played by Chopin himself, and a look back at the friendship of three 19th century artists -- Chopin, writer George Sand (a woman), and painter Eugene Delacroix -- and how they inspired one another's work. Classical music, concerts, and competitions play a large role in the story. Mirabelle and her brothers deal with the life-changing arrival of new siblings -- and gradually decide they're pretty great. Along the way, there's a lot of musing about the relationship of talent, passion, and hard work -- and ecstatic moments of collaboration.
Is It Any Good?
Elise Broach's tale of a tween prodigy, a goldfinch, a wise teacher, and their quest for Chopin's long-lost piano celebrates friendship, perseverance, determination, hard work, and moments of joyous inspiration. Ziyue Chen's plentiful, lively illustrations add lots of appeal. There's a deep dive into classical music, from the composer's life and times to the difficulties of playing some of his works, and the rigorous intensity of piano competitions. As Mirabelle and Michael play their first Duet, "The singing and the music weave and braid, and they become something else entirely, a third thing filling the air between us."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.