Lang Lang's story is one of struggle, sacrifice, conflict, and determination. He was born in Shenyang, China in 1982. He began playing the piano at the age of three, and by the time he was five, he had already won his first competition. His father was determined to get him into the best music school in the country - the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Out of thousands of students who applied, only eight could get in. Lang Lang's family could only afford the school if he finished in the top three (who were given a scholarship). Every day, his father forced him to practice six to eight hours at the piano. His hard work paid off when 10-year-old Lang Lang finished first in the Conservatory competition. At age 15, Lang Lang came to the US to further advance his potential career. In 1999, he was launched into the world spotlight as a last-minute replacement for Andre Watts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Today, he is a world-renowned pianist, and has played with some of the most famous symphony orchestras in the world.
I loved reading this story because there was always something interesting on every page; whether it was another conflict with his father or an upcoming competition. I could never find a good place for me to stop reading; therefore, I read the whole book in one sitting. I loved how he explained everything he felt at any given moment - I felt as though I was in Lang Lang's mind. His relationship with his father is an interesting one, but they always reconcile at the end. This book is very similar to another book I've read called "Mao's Last Dancer" by Li Cunxin. In both stories, a boy grows up in a poor family, and after many years of struggle and hard work, he makes it to the world stage. In my opinion, this book was not as emotional and moving as it could have been. There were many themes and motifs in the story that the author could have used to more advantage. For example, Lang Lang received a stuffed dog as a consolation price in an early competition (he finished 7th). Although he briefly mentioned it as his lucky symbol, I believe the message could have been a lot stronger had he mentioned it at the end of the book. Also, his father's standard pat on the back before every competition could have been used to a larger degree. Lang Lang spent a lot of time describing his childhood years, but not as much on his adult career (less than 20 pages). I would love to hear more about what he's doing as a professional pianist. But overall, I think Lang Lang did an excellent job sharing his story about the journey he took to become one of the best pianists in the world. This book is appropriate for readers of all ages and it will inspire all those who read it. I learned a very important lesson from this book, and it is that you can't succeed without hard work (in Lang Lang's case, hard work means six to eight hours of per day). If I were his father, I would be very, very proud.
Reviewer City, State and Country: Palo Alto, CA USA