Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (But She Does Love Being in Recitals)

BOOK: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (But She Does Love Being in Recitals)

In memory of my father

For Sam and Molly


I am grateful to Markie Ruzzo for her insight, Donna Fitzpatrick for her support, and Anne Schwartz for her invincible instincts.


I would like to thank my remarkably talented cast of characters: Elinor, Charlie, Olive, Anne, and David. I would like to thank Lee for her steady hand behind the wheel, Tad for his extraordinary patience, Aidan for all matters explosive, the town of Cornwall for its spectacular stage, Emily for her perfect yellow buttercup dress, Willa for her fabulous pink gobs-of-glitter dress, and Peggy for the wonderful, witty world of Moxy.


chapter 1
The Setup

It was
just after 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 7, and Moxy Maxwell was still in bed. Outside, the temperature was sixty-four degrees. Inside, a slight (5 mph) breeze was coming through her open windows. Her white curtains were ballooning up and down as the wind came and went. Four or five birds were making chirping sounds. They were not exactly the chirping sounds Moxy was always reading about in books, but they were bird sounds just the same, reminding Moxy that she had almost forgotten about the fact of birds.

It was the perfect day not to wear a hat. The perfect day to put on her new red Windbreaker with the white piping and the three felt-lined pockets and go outside and see what was up. But Moxy didn’t have time.

Moxy didn’t have time because Moxy had a list of Nine Things to Do Before Tonight.

chapter 2
In Which We Learn
About Tonight

Tonight Moxy Maxwell
was going to make her Piano Debut at the Palace Theater. She and her sister, Pansy, who had just turned five (and still could not tie her shoes), were going to play a duet called “Heart and Soul.”

chapter 3
Moxy Plays
the Palace

The Palace Theater
was only the biggest theater in town. It had 2,400 seats and was the place where all the Big Broadway Musicals played when they came on their national tours. Moxy’s Piano Debut was being held at the unfashionable hour of 5 p.m. instead of the more civilized 7 p.m. because a very famous Rock Star (who no one but her mother had heard of) was scheduled to play the Palace at 8 p.m.

In fact, if Moxy’s friend Sam hadn’t
happened to have a mother who owned the Palace Theater in the first place, Moxy’s Piano Debut wouldn’t have been there at all. It would have been in the basement of Temple Emanuel on Lee Road.

chapter 4
In Which We Learn
Two Things That
Disappointed Moxy
About Tonight

Two things
disappointed Moxy about the recital tonight. The first was the fact that “Heart and Soul” was such a short song. She thought it should go on at least five minutes longer.

The second thing was that her twin brother, Mark Maxwell, who was seven minutes younger, was going to play a solo called “The Flight of the Bumblebee.” Moxy thought that if Mark was going to play a solo then she, Moxy Maxwell, should be able to play a solo too.

But as Moxy thought about it, it didn’t matter all that much because “The Flight of the Bumblebee” wasn’t nearly as catchy as “Heart and Soul.” In fact, it sounded like a bunch of bumblebees were swarming around your head. Sometimes Moxy would even find herself swatting in the direction of Mark when he was practicing it.

chapter 5
Moxy Maxwell’s
List of Nine Things
She Had to Do Before
Her Recital Tonight

Here is Moxy’s List
of Nine Things to Do Before Tonight:

1. Get out of bed.

2. Make sure her mother was back from Africa in time to bake the 150 cupcakes for the after-recital party Moxy was throwing.

3. Drink her Green Grass Power Shake so that she would have the upper-body strength to get through her recital.

4. Try on the capes that Granny George was making for Moxy and Pansy to wear.

5. Practice walking in the slippery silver tap shoes she was going to wear with the
cape. (She didn’t want to slide all over the place when she made her Big Entrance.)

6. Try on her crown to make sure it wouldn’t fall off when she made her Big Entrance.

7. Put on her stage makeup.

8. Warm up her voice in case someone asked her to sing.

9. Have the Big Dress Rehearsal.

chapter 6
In Which Sam Calls

If I have not
mentioned it before, I should now: Moxy Maxwell was very quick on the draw when it came to picking up her cell phone. In fact, her cell phone hadn’t even finished the first note of Beethoven’s Fifth when she answered it.

It was Sam.

“Are you nervous?” he said.

Even though Sam was a boy, and only six, he was Moxy’s best friend. That was because Sam would do anything Moxy asked—and also, of course, because he was very nice.

“Nervous about what?” said Moxy. She was out of bed now and rummaging around in the bottom of her closet. She was looking for her silver tap shoes.

“Your piano recital,” said Sam.

Even Sam knew it was a silly question. Moxy Maxwell had only been nervous once in her entire life and that was last August 23rd and it had only lasted for a paragraph. (See Chapter 25 of
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love
Stuart Little.) In fact, Moxy was the opposite of nervous—Moxy could hardly wait for, as she called it, her Piano Debut.

“Can I come over and watch the Big Dress Rehearsal?” asked Sam.

Moxy, who was now looking under her bed for her left silver tap shoe, said, “Hurry up! I need all the help I can get.”

Then Moxy and Sam hung up at exactly the same moment.

chapter 7
The Hook

The Hook
is the part of a story that makes you, the Reader, want to keep reading to find out what happens next. Ideally, the Hook should come as early as Chapter 1—Chapter 2 at the latest. Any later, and the author risks “losing the reader.” Which means that you, the Reader, might put this book down for just one second to get some gum and never come back. So please hang on—even though it is already Chapter 7, Something Really Big is about to happen.

chapter 8
Something Really Big

, the Maxwells’ phone rang. And Mrs. Maxwell, who was in the kitchen baking 150 cupcakes, wiped marshmallow frosting on her apron.

She picked up the phone on the third ring.

“Mrs. Maxwell?” It was Ms. Killingher. Ms. Killingher was Moxy and Mark and Pansy’s piano teacher.

“Why, Ms. Killingher,” said Mrs. Maxwell, “is anything wrong?” Moxy’s mother knew that this had to be a busy day for
Ms. Killingher. Ms. Killingher was in charge of the whole recital, including all the announcements
the lights
the video camera
the programs
the tickets
the people who were supposed to take the tickets
the mother who was supposed to make the video.

“I’m about to print the programs for the recital tonight,” said Ms. Killingher. “But before I do, I need to know how Moxy’s practicing has gone this week.”

“Moxy’s practicing?” said Mrs. Maxwell absently. She was trying to remove some marshmallow frosting that had gotten mashed in her hair. “I’m sure it’s gone very well,” she went on, though she wasn’t sure.

“So you feel confident Moxy will be able to
playing her part of ‘Heart and Soul’ when she gets to the end?”

playing her part of ‘Heart and Soul’?” said Mrs. Maxwell.

“And about the pounding,” continued Ms. Killingher. “Has Moxy managed to stop that too?”

“Pounding?” said Mrs. Maxwell.

We have to forgive Mrs. Maxwell. She was feeling
very tired
this morning. You see, she’d just arrived home in the middle of the night from Africa.

chapter 9
In Which We Learn
Mrs. Maxwell
Was in Africa

Mrs. Maxwell
had flown to Kenya, which is a country in Africa, last week at the last minute because her twin sister, Susan Standish, had fallen off a tippy ladder while she was feeding a giraffe. She had suffered a concussion. (The exact details of how it happened were still unclear, as was Aunt Susan Standish herself.)

Moxy had wanted to go with her mother. She wanted to talk to the president over there about getting a new flag. Number 39 on Moxy’s list of all Possible Career Paths was to design flags for new countries and old countries that wanted to freshen up their look.

chapter 10
Which Begins with
Ms. Killingher Saying,
“Are You There,
Mrs. Maxwell?”

“Are you there
, Mrs. Maxwell?” said Ms. Killingher. Ms. Killingher thought Moxy’s mother was behaving the
slightest bit
like Moxy today: She didn’t seem to be listening.

There was a pause while Mrs. Maxwell realized how restful her trip to Kenya had been. Even though she had spent most of it sitting in an orange plastic chair at Nairobi General Hospital, reading a 1972 issue of
National Geographic
, while waiting for her sister to get unconfused enough to fly back home to Ohio.

“Mrs. Maxwell, did you get the note I sent home with Moxy last week?” continued Ms. Killingher.

said Mrs. Maxwell. “I’m sure we did.”

Mrs. Maxwell started to drag the phone across the kitchen floor to her husband’s office, which was just ten feet away. But the cord attached to the wall got tangled in some marshmallow-frosted cupcakes just as she reached the hall outside his door.

“I’m sure we got the note,”
Mrs. Maxwell said in a loud voice. Now she was staring at her husband, whose name was Ajax. (In addition to being Mrs. Maxwell’s husband, Ajax was also Mark and Moxy’s stepfather and Pansy’s

But Ajax, who was also a famous children’s poet, was too busy to think about
the note
. He was desperately trying to finish a
poem he was writing about an extinct species called the elephant bird. The poem had been due yesterday.

The first verse was perfect. Here it is:

Eggs the size of dinosaur’s
Legs as big as a beam
The Elephant Bird, the Elephant Bird
Was the ten-foot bird supreme

Unfortunately, while Mrs. Maxwell had been in Africa, “The Elephant Bird” had slowed down considerably. That was because Ajax had been left in charge of
everything. Everything
might not seem like a lot …. But
had stopped Ajax from finishing the second verse. All he needed was one more word.

Here is the second verse (minus the last word) so you can get an idea of what he was up against:

Claws as sharp as razor blades
Beak like a broad-head spear
The Elephant Bird, the Elephant
Bird Had nobody else to

Suggestions are welcome.

In fact, Ajax was so busy muttering to himself,
“Beak like a broad-head spear—the Elephant Bird—the Elephant Bird—had nobody else to … to what? To beer? To rear? To be near?”
that Mrs. Maxwell finally put the phone receiver down on the hall floor. Then she walked to the bottom of the stairs and called out, “Moxy?”

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