Joanna and the Piano – Gavin Thomson

Written in the present tense with all the breathless stream of consciousness of a bright, excitable 10 year old girl, Joanna and the Piano is part time-travelling fantasy, part comment on modern family life.

When her father is made redundant, Joanna is forced to leave the city home and friends she loves to start a new life in an Elizabethan country house. While waiting for the WiFi to be installed, she and her father discover a beautiful Bösendorfer grand piano. Released from storage, the piano is installed in the living room for Joanna to play, and almost as soon as her fingers touch the keys, the mysterious Herr Mozhoven (get it?!) appears at the front door to give Joanna piano lessons.

Of course these lessons are not the usual tedious fare of scales and pieces: instead, under Herr Mozhoven’s tutelage, Joanna embarks on a series of time-travelling adventures – to the First and Second World Wars, and to the Victorian and Georgian eras. The piano becomes the agent of these intriguing and exciting adventures.

The narrative is imaginative and fast-paced, mixing creative ideas with delightful fantasy and escapism, and observations on modern family life with insights into bygone times. Joanna is a charming, sympathetic personality, her character well defined and easy to identify with.

Joanna and the Piano is self-published by the author (via Amazon’s CreateSpace platform). It’s a nicely produced though the text could do with a proper copy-edit (this won’t bother kids though) and while I appreciate why the author chose to alternate black and white pages (a nice nod to the piano keyboard), the white text on black paper is not very easy on the reading eye. The text might also benefit from some illustrations. These quibbles aside, this is an enjoyable and exuberant read which will appeal to young readers aged 8-12.