Download high-resolution image Look inside
Listen to a clip from the audiobook
audio pause button
0:00
0:00

The Notes

Look inside
Listen to a clip from the audiobook
audio pause button
0:00
0:00
A reserved Chinese American teen at a Southern performing arts boarding school comes into her own under the tutelage of a glamorous new piano teacher. A moving coming-of-age-novel from a debut novelist about first love, adolescent angst, and academic pressures.

“Compellingly readable. Make room in the boarding-school book canon for a new classic.”  - Jeff Zentner, award-winning author of In the Wild Light and The Serpent King

"A moving, highly virtuosic, and heart-rending portrait of an aspiring teen pianist trying to find her way...it made me feel seen." - Patricia Park, author of Imposter Syndrome and Other Confession of Alejandra Kim and What’s Eating Jackie Oh?


Claire Wu isn’t sure that she has what it takes to become a successful concert pianist.

It’s the fear of every student at Greenwood School for the Performing Arts: becoming a washed-out performer who couldn't make it big. And Claire's no Rocky Wong, the ace pianist at their boarding school.

Then Dr. Li shows up.  She’s like no other teacher at Greenwood: mysterious, sophisticated, fascinating. Under Dr. Li’s tutelage, Claire works harder and dreams bigger than ever. And her crush Rocky finally seems interested. Maybe she’ll even be "Chinese enough" to join the elusive Asian Student Society.

Everything is falling into place until eerily personal notes about Claire’s bond with Dr. Li appear. Claire starts to feel the pressure. But she isn't the only one. Everyone is feeling the strain. Especially Rocky, whose extreme perfectionism hides something more troubling.

As the Showcase tension crescendos, Claire must decide if she’s ready to sink or swim. Only then can she discover who she really is and learn if she’s ready to give her all for a shot at greatness.

The Notes is a powerful and poignant debut YA novel from award-winning writer Catherine Con Morse about dealing with academic pressures, falling in love for the first time, and finding yourself.
Catherine Con Morse was one of the inaugural Writers in Residence at Porter Square Books. A Kundiman fellow, she received her MFA from Boston University, where she taught undergraduate creative writing for several years. Her work appears in Joyland, Letters, HOOT, Bostonia, the Racist Sandwich podcast, and elsewhere. The Notes was shortlisted for the CRAFT first chapters contest and is her first novel.
    In high school, Catherine attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, a public arts boarding school, where she was as intrigued with her teacher as Claire is with Dr. Li. Catherine continues to play and teach piano today. Most recently, she taught English at Choate Rosemary Hall, and lives in the Connecticut River Valley with her husband and daughter. View titles by Catherine Con Morse
Chapter 1

We saw Dr. Li before we met her. In the dining hall, she wore knee-­high black leather boots and sunglasses so large they practically rested on her cheekbones. It was early September in Green Valley, South Carolina, but even our winters didn’t call for boots like that. Jenny and I watched as she nudged a tray along with just the tips of her fingers, as if wanting to touch it as little as possible. She stood on the colored tiles in front of the green beans spotted with bacon, the mashed potatoes and their vat of gravy, the dripping kernels of sweet corn. In her black sheath dress, a black leather tote on her shoulder, she looked out of place, her outfit more fit for an office than a school. Somehow, already, we could sense her disappointment. Maybe it was the way she had walked into the room, the sigh when she entered, the pause in front of the trays before resigning herself to take one and approach the counter. Well, if this is what I have to work with, she seemed to be saying, so be it.

“Whatchoo want, baby?” said Barbara, the dining hall manager. She wore plum-­colored lipstick and spoke to Dr. Li in the same way she did us, her whatchoo like a sneeze, then a dip into the long, low want, ending in a high, soft baby that nearly sounded like babe.

Dr. Li did not seem the least bit taken aback about being called baby. She said, “I’ll have some of this, please,” and pointed to the wet, dark green mass that we knew to be canned spinach. Her voice was cool and quiet. When she spoke, it was nearly accent-­less, unlike my mother, who spoke English fluently but not without some remnant of her native Mandarin.

The spinach was slapped onto the plate. “What else?” said Barbara.

“That’s it,” said Dr. Li.

“That be all?”

“Yes, thank you.”

The plate, a bright orange plastic disk, was passed over, and Dr. Li set it on her tray. One hip cocked, one black boot pointed toward the tables, she carried her tray to the salad bar, her shoes clicking on the tile. She stood over the soup and lifted the ladle, inspecting the contents of the tureen. Chicken noodle.

At a table by the windows, Dr. Li sat down and took her sunglasses off. I saw that her eyes were dark and her skin pale and smooth. Her long hair, set loose to the humidity, had begun to curl just the slightest bit at the ends. She ate the spinach quickly but neatly, as if wanting to get it over with. Of course, it hardly needed chewing and, in fact, was a weekly offering we all avoided. It would be reheated and re-­salted for a casserole on Saturday, when the dining staff took the leftovers from the week and baked them twice between sheets of flour. Dr. Li didn’t know yet that meals were never this calm at Greenwood, but today—­three days before the fall semester—­was an exception. When school was in session, dinners were frenzied affairs, lunches worse. We simultaneously needed to eat everything and say everything. Now it was well past lunchtime, nearly two-­thirty. The dining hall was empty.

Just then, Jenny waved a hand in front of my face. “Earth to Claire,” she said. She adjusted her glasses and bent her head toward mine—­our faces so close that her light brown ponytail brushed my shoulder—­and looked where I was looking.

“I wonder if the Asian Student Society will ask her to sponsor them,” said Jenny.

“They don’t already have a sponsor?” I asked.

“Somehow, they function without one since there are no Asian teachers. Well, there were none, anyway.”

“Where did you hear that?” I asked.

“Everyone knows. Where have you been? Living under a Rachmaninoff?”

I groaned.

It annoyed me that even Jenny knew more about the Asian Student Society than I did, given that I was Asian and she wasn’t. I had applied to the Society last spring and been rejected. I was pretty sure I knew exactly why, could trace my failure back to first-­year Halloween. I’d dressed up as Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a movie that I later found out was on the Society’s list of boycotted films. Of course it was: Mr. Yunioshi was a bucktoothed, bumbling Japanese caricature played by a white actor. I cringed at the memory of my elbow-­length gloves and fake cigarette holder.

“If you know so much,” I asked Jenny now, “tell me this. Why was Dr. Li wearing sunglasses inside?”

Jenny considered, then said, “She’s either drunk or stoned. All the really good ones have to get stoned because of stress.”

When Jenny said things like that, I wanted to be more like her. She always sounded like she knew exactly what she was talking about, even when she didn’t—­maybe even more so when she didn’t—­and I envied that.

Dr. Li headed back to the counter. She didn’t look stoned to me. “Excuse me,” we heard her say. “Do you have any bread?”

“There you go, babe,” said Barbara, and held out a dinner roll with her tongs. “You’ll love it here,” she continued. “These students are like my own kids. Pretty soon you be feeling that way, too.”

“That’s lovely,” said Dr. Li. But it sounded like she thought the opposite was true.



Every fall, we attended the Annual Faculty-­Student Assembly in Elizabeth D. Halpern Recital Hall. This year’s was my third. Dr. Hamilton, who presided over the assembly, had studied musicology at Penn decades ago. He had been making “introductory remarks” for what felt like half an hour. “And that is why, young artists,” he was saying, “you must stay the course, despite how often we artists are marginalized.”

“But with all due respect, Dr. Hamilton, have you ever thought maybe we need to be marginalized?” Rocky Wong called out. “ ‘An artist is always alone—­if he is an artist,’ ” he quoted.

I craned my neck and saw Rocky high-­five everyone around him. We’d been in the same piano studio for the past two years, so I knew he loved going on tangents to delay class—­but he’d never interrupted Assembly before. That was the seniors’ job. But this year, Rocky was a senior, and he looked the part, too: he leaned back in his chair with his feet up, and I could see his familiar gray Converses from where I was sitting.

“Yes, that’s Henry Miller,” said Dr. Hamilton. “Feet down, Mr. Wong. You’ve made an interesting point, in spite of interrupting me. If the artist is truly a master, are they necessarily, alone?” He sighed. “But that, young artists, is another conversation for another day. Put all your technologies away. I hereby call to order the forty-­fifth Greenwood Annual Faculty-­Student Assembly.”

“Or Annual Fucking-­Stupid Assembly,” Jenny muttered beside me. “Am I right?” She patted me on the back. “Don’t look so nervous, Claire. No one really cares about this stuff.”

I gave Jenny a look. I was the music rep this year, which meant I was supposed to go up to the stage to ask Dr. Li a question when she was introduced.

Dr. Hamilton went on. “This year, I am pleased to announce that the special topics for music history include ‘The Renaissance in Music and Art’ ”—­at this, a few groans from the audience, except for a few who whooped—­“and, in the spring, ‘The Four Bs: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and the Beatles.’ ” This was met by cheers from nearly everyone, and then Dr. Hamilton went on to announce the electives for the other arts concentrations: visual arts, drama, and dance.

“Now, let us begin our assembly with the Greenwood Pledge. This year’s representative from the theater department—­an honors student in chemistry, English, and French—­is Lauren Culpepper.”

We clapped. Beside me, Jenny said, “Of course it would be Lauren Culpepper.”

Toward the back of the auditorium, Lauren stood up. “Present at Greenwood,” she said, enunciating. “Please rise.”

Jenny and I stood, our seats clapping back along with everyone else’s, so we heard a collective shuffling as everyone got to their feet. Then Lauren led us in reciting: “We pledge ourselves to our calling, our art. We seek to serve with our gifts, and to stretch our talent as far as it will go, as we stand on the shoulders of the masters before us.”

“Thank you, Lauren,” said Dr. Hamilton. “Now, I am honored to introduce our new faculty members. We have two of them this year. First, from the dance department, Paul Yanko.”

From the front row, a small, lithe man made his way up and waved at us.

At the same time, a dancer walked quickly toward the stage, her feet in the same splayed position as Yanko’s.

“Thanks, Mr. Yanko,” said Dr. Hamilton. “This is our dance representative, Adeline Felts.”

“Mr. Yanko,” Adeline said after shaking his hand, “when did you first know that you wanted to be a dancer?”

Paul Yanko cleared his throat. “Well, I remember the first time I saw The Nutcracker on TV. From that moment, I was hooked. I knew that I had to dance!”

Beside me, Jenny whispered, “Oh, brother.”

“Oh, come on,” I said. “That wasn’t that bad.”

“Thank you, Mr. Yanko,” Dr. Hamilton said. “Now it’s my pleasure to introduce our other new faculty member, Tina Li. Dr. Li will take over our piano program this fall.”

Jenny patted me on the back. I stood and made my way toward the stage. My heart was beating fast. From the front of the recital hall, I scanned the seats for Dr. Li.

When I stepped onto the stage, Dr. Hamilton gave me a small smile. “Dr. Li?” he said. We waited. It was so quiet that, when someone sneezed, we heard a whispered “Bless you.”

A few people giggled. A phone buzzed.

After several seconds, students began to cough and shuffle in their seats, much like we did between movements of a sonata. It felt as if we’d been waiting for a long time. Maybe a full minute passed, and finally someone—­I think it was Rocky again—­said, “Well? Where is she?”

“Quiet, please,” said Dr. Hamilton. “Dr. Li? Come on up.”

But no one moved. I looked toward the music faculty. No one appeared to be getting out of their seat.

“Dr. Tina Li? Piano?” Dr. Hamilton said.

“Maybe she’s asleep,” a brass player suggested.

“You were asleep,” someone else said.

“Order,” said Dr. Hamilton.

One of the teachers stood, propped her glasses up on her head, and looked around the hall. Then she looked at Dr. Hamilton, shook her head, and sat back down.

Dr. Hamilton said, “I’m calling the right name, aren’t I?”

No one laughed. People were beginning to murmur.

Dr. Hamilton said, “I’m sorry, Claire. It looks like she didn’t make it today.”

I turned toward the piano section. Even from where I stood, I could see Jenny looking at me, then at the others, with her eyebrows furrowed. I knew what she would be saying after we were dismissed: What the hell? Where was she?

People began talking among themselves.

“Can I skip Assembly next year?”

“I hope nothing happened to her.”

Then they were saying “Shhh!” and “Listen!” And everyone fell silent as they heard, just faintly, a trickle of piano notes coming up from the vents on either side of the hall. I recognized the piece immediately: it was the opening of the Beethoven E major, one of the last piano sonatas he wrote. Just the first two bars. Someone was playing them again and again. They unfurled softly and rapidly, like spools of silk. The hall was built directly on top of the practice rooms. But why hadn’t this happened before? Because until now, all music students and faculty had been present for any event that took place in Elizabeth D. Halpern Recital Hall.

We were quiet as we listened to the first two measures again. And again, and again.
"A compelling exploration of art, identity, and falling in love." —Kirkus Reviews

"This novel shines as an earnest examination of belonging, loneliness, artistic and personal growth, self-doubt, and mental health struggles (including self-harm) among high-achieving performers." —Booklist

"A work that hits notes of high drama but is ultimately lullaby sweet and comforting." —The Bulletin

"A captivating musical coming-of-age novel that sensitively explores racial identity, belonging, and mental illness." —School Library Journal

About

A reserved Chinese American teen at a Southern performing arts boarding school comes into her own under the tutelage of a glamorous new piano teacher. A moving coming-of-age-novel from a debut novelist about first love, adolescent angst, and academic pressures.

“Compellingly readable. Make room in the boarding-school book canon for a new classic.”  - Jeff Zentner, award-winning author of In the Wild Light and The Serpent King

"A moving, highly virtuosic, and heart-rending portrait of an aspiring teen pianist trying to find her way...it made me feel seen." - Patricia Park, author of Imposter Syndrome and Other Confession of Alejandra Kim and What’s Eating Jackie Oh?


Claire Wu isn’t sure that she has what it takes to become a successful concert pianist.

It’s the fear of every student at Greenwood School for the Performing Arts: becoming a washed-out performer who couldn't make it big. And Claire's no Rocky Wong, the ace pianist at their boarding school.

Then Dr. Li shows up.  She’s like no other teacher at Greenwood: mysterious, sophisticated, fascinating. Under Dr. Li’s tutelage, Claire works harder and dreams bigger than ever. And her crush Rocky finally seems interested. Maybe she’ll even be "Chinese enough" to join the elusive Asian Student Society.

Everything is falling into place until eerily personal notes about Claire’s bond with Dr. Li appear. Claire starts to feel the pressure. But she isn't the only one. Everyone is feeling the strain. Especially Rocky, whose extreme perfectionism hides something more troubling.

As the Showcase tension crescendos, Claire must decide if she’s ready to sink or swim. Only then can she discover who she really is and learn if she’s ready to give her all for a shot at greatness.

The Notes is a powerful and poignant debut YA novel from award-winning writer Catherine Con Morse about dealing with academic pressures, falling in love for the first time, and finding yourself.

Author

Catherine Con Morse was one of the inaugural Writers in Residence at Porter Square Books. A Kundiman fellow, she received her MFA from Boston University, where she taught undergraduate creative writing for several years. Her work appears in Joyland, Letters, HOOT, Bostonia, the Racist Sandwich podcast, and elsewhere. The Notes was shortlisted for the CRAFT first chapters contest and is her first novel.
    In high school, Catherine attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, a public arts boarding school, where she was as intrigued with her teacher as Claire is with Dr. Li. Catherine continues to play and teach piano today. Most recently, she taught English at Choate Rosemary Hall, and lives in the Connecticut River Valley with her husband and daughter. View titles by Catherine Con Morse

Excerpt

Chapter 1

We saw Dr. Li before we met her. In the dining hall, she wore knee-­high black leather boots and sunglasses so large they practically rested on her cheekbones. It was early September in Green Valley, South Carolina, but even our winters didn’t call for boots like that. Jenny and I watched as she nudged a tray along with just the tips of her fingers, as if wanting to touch it as little as possible. She stood on the colored tiles in front of the green beans spotted with bacon, the mashed potatoes and their vat of gravy, the dripping kernels of sweet corn. In her black sheath dress, a black leather tote on her shoulder, she looked out of place, her outfit more fit for an office than a school. Somehow, already, we could sense her disappointment. Maybe it was the way she had walked into the room, the sigh when she entered, the pause in front of the trays before resigning herself to take one and approach the counter. Well, if this is what I have to work with, she seemed to be saying, so be it.

“Whatchoo want, baby?” said Barbara, the dining hall manager. She wore plum-­colored lipstick and spoke to Dr. Li in the same way she did us, her whatchoo like a sneeze, then a dip into the long, low want, ending in a high, soft baby that nearly sounded like babe.

Dr. Li did not seem the least bit taken aback about being called baby. She said, “I’ll have some of this, please,” and pointed to the wet, dark green mass that we knew to be canned spinach. Her voice was cool and quiet. When she spoke, it was nearly accent-­less, unlike my mother, who spoke English fluently but not without some remnant of her native Mandarin.

The spinach was slapped onto the plate. “What else?” said Barbara.

“That’s it,” said Dr. Li.

“That be all?”

“Yes, thank you.”

The plate, a bright orange plastic disk, was passed over, and Dr. Li set it on her tray. One hip cocked, one black boot pointed toward the tables, she carried her tray to the salad bar, her shoes clicking on the tile. She stood over the soup and lifted the ladle, inspecting the contents of the tureen. Chicken noodle.

At a table by the windows, Dr. Li sat down and took her sunglasses off. I saw that her eyes were dark and her skin pale and smooth. Her long hair, set loose to the humidity, had begun to curl just the slightest bit at the ends. She ate the spinach quickly but neatly, as if wanting to get it over with. Of course, it hardly needed chewing and, in fact, was a weekly offering we all avoided. It would be reheated and re-­salted for a casserole on Saturday, when the dining staff took the leftovers from the week and baked them twice between sheets of flour. Dr. Li didn’t know yet that meals were never this calm at Greenwood, but today—­three days before the fall semester—­was an exception. When school was in session, dinners were frenzied affairs, lunches worse. We simultaneously needed to eat everything and say everything. Now it was well past lunchtime, nearly two-­thirty. The dining hall was empty.

Just then, Jenny waved a hand in front of my face. “Earth to Claire,” she said. She adjusted her glasses and bent her head toward mine—­our faces so close that her light brown ponytail brushed my shoulder—­and looked where I was looking.

“I wonder if the Asian Student Society will ask her to sponsor them,” said Jenny.

“They don’t already have a sponsor?” I asked.

“Somehow, they function without one since there are no Asian teachers. Well, there were none, anyway.”

“Where did you hear that?” I asked.

“Everyone knows. Where have you been? Living under a Rachmaninoff?”

I groaned.

It annoyed me that even Jenny knew more about the Asian Student Society than I did, given that I was Asian and she wasn’t. I had applied to the Society last spring and been rejected. I was pretty sure I knew exactly why, could trace my failure back to first-­year Halloween. I’d dressed up as Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a movie that I later found out was on the Society’s list of boycotted films. Of course it was: Mr. Yunioshi was a bucktoothed, bumbling Japanese caricature played by a white actor. I cringed at the memory of my elbow-­length gloves and fake cigarette holder.

“If you know so much,” I asked Jenny now, “tell me this. Why was Dr. Li wearing sunglasses inside?”

Jenny considered, then said, “She’s either drunk or stoned. All the really good ones have to get stoned because of stress.”

When Jenny said things like that, I wanted to be more like her. She always sounded like she knew exactly what she was talking about, even when she didn’t—­maybe even more so when she didn’t—­and I envied that.

Dr. Li headed back to the counter. She didn’t look stoned to me. “Excuse me,” we heard her say. “Do you have any bread?”

“There you go, babe,” said Barbara, and held out a dinner roll with her tongs. “You’ll love it here,” she continued. “These students are like my own kids. Pretty soon you be feeling that way, too.”

“That’s lovely,” said Dr. Li. But it sounded like she thought the opposite was true.



Every fall, we attended the Annual Faculty-­Student Assembly in Elizabeth D. Halpern Recital Hall. This year’s was my third. Dr. Hamilton, who presided over the assembly, had studied musicology at Penn decades ago. He had been making “introductory remarks” for what felt like half an hour. “And that is why, young artists,” he was saying, “you must stay the course, despite how often we artists are marginalized.”

“But with all due respect, Dr. Hamilton, have you ever thought maybe we need to be marginalized?” Rocky Wong called out. “ ‘An artist is always alone—­if he is an artist,’ ” he quoted.

I craned my neck and saw Rocky high-­five everyone around him. We’d been in the same piano studio for the past two years, so I knew he loved going on tangents to delay class—­but he’d never interrupted Assembly before. That was the seniors’ job. But this year, Rocky was a senior, and he looked the part, too: he leaned back in his chair with his feet up, and I could see his familiar gray Converses from where I was sitting.

“Yes, that’s Henry Miller,” said Dr. Hamilton. “Feet down, Mr. Wong. You’ve made an interesting point, in spite of interrupting me. If the artist is truly a master, are they necessarily, alone?” He sighed. “But that, young artists, is another conversation for another day. Put all your technologies away. I hereby call to order the forty-­fifth Greenwood Annual Faculty-­Student Assembly.”

“Or Annual Fucking-­Stupid Assembly,” Jenny muttered beside me. “Am I right?” She patted me on the back. “Don’t look so nervous, Claire. No one really cares about this stuff.”

I gave Jenny a look. I was the music rep this year, which meant I was supposed to go up to the stage to ask Dr. Li a question when she was introduced.

Dr. Hamilton went on. “This year, I am pleased to announce that the special topics for music history include ‘The Renaissance in Music and Art’ ”—­at this, a few groans from the audience, except for a few who whooped—­“and, in the spring, ‘The Four Bs: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and the Beatles.’ ” This was met by cheers from nearly everyone, and then Dr. Hamilton went on to announce the electives for the other arts concentrations: visual arts, drama, and dance.

“Now, let us begin our assembly with the Greenwood Pledge. This year’s representative from the theater department—­an honors student in chemistry, English, and French—­is Lauren Culpepper.”

We clapped. Beside me, Jenny said, “Of course it would be Lauren Culpepper.”

Toward the back of the auditorium, Lauren stood up. “Present at Greenwood,” she said, enunciating. “Please rise.”

Jenny and I stood, our seats clapping back along with everyone else’s, so we heard a collective shuffling as everyone got to their feet. Then Lauren led us in reciting: “We pledge ourselves to our calling, our art. We seek to serve with our gifts, and to stretch our talent as far as it will go, as we stand on the shoulders of the masters before us.”

“Thank you, Lauren,” said Dr. Hamilton. “Now, I am honored to introduce our new faculty members. We have two of them this year. First, from the dance department, Paul Yanko.”

From the front row, a small, lithe man made his way up and waved at us.

At the same time, a dancer walked quickly toward the stage, her feet in the same splayed position as Yanko’s.

“Thanks, Mr. Yanko,” said Dr. Hamilton. “This is our dance representative, Adeline Felts.”

“Mr. Yanko,” Adeline said after shaking his hand, “when did you first know that you wanted to be a dancer?”

Paul Yanko cleared his throat. “Well, I remember the first time I saw The Nutcracker on TV. From that moment, I was hooked. I knew that I had to dance!”

Beside me, Jenny whispered, “Oh, brother.”

“Oh, come on,” I said. “That wasn’t that bad.”

“Thank you, Mr. Yanko,” Dr. Hamilton said. “Now it’s my pleasure to introduce our other new faculty member, Tina Li. Dr. Li will take over our piano program this fall.”

Jenny patted me on the back. I stood and made my way toward the stage. My heart was beating fast. From the front of the recital hall, I scanned the seats for Dr. Li.

When I stepped onto the stage, Dr. Hamilton gave me a small smile. “Dr. Li?” he said. We waited. It was so quiet that, when someone sneezed, we heard a whispered “Bless you.”

A few people giggled. A phone buzzed.

After several seconds, students began to cough and shuffle in their seats, much like we did between movements of a sonata. It felt as if we’d been waiting for a long time. Maybe a full minute passed, and finally someone—­I think it was Rocky again—­said, “Well? Where is she?”

“Quiet, please,” said Dr. Hamilton. “Dr. Li? Come on up.”

But no one moved. I looked toward the music faculty. No one appeared to be getting out of their seat.

“Dr. Tina Li? Piano?” Dr. Hamilton said.

“Maybe she’s asleep,” a brass player suggested.

“You were asleep,” someone else said.

“Order,” said Dr. Hamilton.

One of the teachers stood, propped her glasses up on her head, and looked around the hall. Then she looked at Dr. Hamilton, shook her head, and sat back down.

Dr. Hamilton said, “I’m calling the right name, aren’t I?”

No one laughed. People were beginning to murmur.

Dr. Hamilton said, “I’m sorry, Claire. It looks like she didn’t make it today.”

I turned toward the piano section. Even from where I stood, I could see Jenny looking at me, then at the others, with her eyebrows furrowed. I knew what she would be saying after we were dismissed: What the hell? Where was she?

People began talking among themselves.

“Can I skip Assembly next year?”

“I hope nothing happened to her.”

Then they were saying “Shhh!” and “Listen!” And everyone fell silent as they heard, just faintly, a trickle of piano notes coming up from the vents on either side of the hall. I recognized the piece immediately: it was the opening of the Beethoven E major, one of the last piano sonatas he wrote. Just the first two bars. Someone was playing them again and again. They unfurled softly and rapidly, like spools of silk. The hall was built directly on top of the practice rooms. But why hadn’t this happened before? Because until now, all music students and faculty had been present for any event that took place in Elizabeth D. Halpern Recital Hall.

We were quiet as we listened to the first two measures again. And again, and again.

Praise

"A compelling exploration of art, identity, and falling in love." —Kirkus Reviews

"This novel shines as an earnest examination of belonging, loneliness, artistic and personal growth, self-doubt, and mental health struggles (including self-harm) among high-achieving performers." —Booklist

"A work that hits notes of high drama but is ultimately lullaby sweet and comforting." —The Bulletin

"A captivating musical coming-of-age novel that sensitively explores racial identity, belonging, and mental illness." —School Library Journal

Books for LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

In June we celebrate Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan and highlights the accomplishments of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual + (LGBTQIA+) community, while recognizing the ongoing struggles faced by many across the world who wish to live as their most authentic selves. Here is

Read more

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

Read more

PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

Read more

PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

Read more