Thursday, September 19, 2019

A Diminished Fifth: Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido

In her immensely musical family, Emmy has always felt like a changeling.

Dad's a pianist.

Mom's an opera singer.

I can't remember a time before music.
Music swims in my bloodstream.

But after trying piano, flute, violin, saxophone, drums, bass, and guitar, Emmy realizes that she can't get the music inside her... out.
When we moved to San Francisco we gave up.

Turns out loving music
Isn't the same as being a musician.

At her new school, in her gray Green Bay Packer's hoodie and withher sack lunch, Emmy feels even more like a wrong note. All the kids look like they're dressed for a photo shoot and carry their lunches of weird grains in sleek reusable containers. Right away she has to decide on an elective--cooking around the world, the winter play, orchestra and choir, computer science. Undecided, she listens to the girl with braids across the aisle, whose friends say she has to sign up for choir if she wants to make the Honey Bees chorus in eighth grade, and, turning away, Emmy knows choir is not for her and resolutely checks the box for computer class.

But there are two surprises in computer programming--the girl with braids, Abigail, shows up there, and their teacher-- Ms. Frankie Delaney-- has a big, bright smile and tells them they are going to learn her favorite computer language, Java. Still, Emmy has fears.

What if I'm just as awful as a computer scientist as I am a musician?

What if the girl in braids is mad that I caught her changing her elective?

"I'm Abigail. What's your name?"

"Hi, I'm new here. My name is Emmy."

As the semester goes by, Emmy finds both a friend and the keys to make the music in her head coming back, dancing, singing inside her, and when it's her turn to show her computer program onstage, she hits the play button and sings with her program, her own song in her own, new voice.
I'm not singing a solo anymore.

Even back in Wisconsin, Emmy had felt out of tune with her family, like an unexpected diminished fifth chord at the end of the measure. But in Aimee Lucido's forthcoming novel, Emmy in the Key of Code (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), the chord is resolved when she discovers that she can compose her music in computer code. Written in a sort of poetic coding, this middle-school story marches to a different drummer, one which celebrates the many ways to be in harmony with yourself at a hard time in life. With an underscoring of the need for girls in tech subjects, author Lucido's story composes a coda that celebrates finding your own melody inside yourself and the language to set it free.

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