32 Books in 32 Days – Day Four

Each day leading up to the April 17 announcement of the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature

Children’s Literature Finalist,
Song of Middle C
Alison McGhee
Illustrated by Scott Menchin



Excerpt from Song of Middle C:

Did you know that piano recitals take a long, long time?
Especially when your song is the very last song on the program.
The very, very last song.
But am I nervous?
Hoo boy, no!
Not one tiny bit.


A young girl spends hours playing and memorizing her piano piece, “Dance of the Wood Elves.” She practices bowing in front of her stuffed animals, and her big brother’s teasing doesn’t even bother her. The night of the recital she feels confident and prepared in her lucky hat, shoes, and underwear, despite being the last performer on stage. But what happens when her fingers forget the song?



Pulitzer Prize nominee, Alison McGhee writes for all ages and in all forms, from poetry and stories to novels and picture books and essays. Her novel Shadow Baby was a Today Show Book Club pick, and her picture book Someday was featured on NPR and was a #1 New York Times bestseller. She has also won numerous awards including four Minnesota Book Awards, the GLCA National Fiction Award, Friends of the American Library Award, Gold Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio Award, ALA Best Books for Children, Parents’ Choice Award, and a City Pages Artist of the Year award. Alison is an associate professor of creative writing at Metropolitan State University, where she coordinates the creative writing program.

Illustrator Scott Menchin lives in New York with his wife, Yvetta, and their daughter, Karina, and teaches at the Pratt Institute Graduate School. As an illustrator, some of his clients have been Dr. Pepper, Intel, Sun Microsytems, Toyota, Time, Newsweek, Esquire, Wired, GQ, Fast Company, Saveur, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Smart Money. His work has appeared in American Illustration, Print magazine, The Society of Illustrators, and The Society of Publication Designers.



“The modern, perky protagonist shares her story of a piano recital through casual, but smart narration. The bold illustrations by Menchin add more layers to McGhee’s funny, blithe storytelling.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“Practice may make perfect, but when a memory lapse threatens to derail a piano recital performance, imagination and creativity with a healthy dose of improvisation save the day.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“Drawn with pen and ink and colored digitally, the cartoon artwork merrily depicts the action while illustrating the young maestro’s funny flights of fancy. Sharp lines, clean layouts, and clever details add to the fun. The first-person narrative strikes just the right note, revealing feelings and concerns that will be familiar to any child who has ever been in a performance situation.”—Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal




Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Have you read Song of Middle C? What are your thoughts? Did you vote for the Readers’ Choice Award? We welcome your comments!

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