Monday, November 17, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Keys

Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Keys by Lang Lang with Michael French

Reviewed by Erica Moore

Lang Lang has been named one of the top 20 teens who will change the world. He played the opening concert for the World Cup 2006 Munich. In 2008 he played at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. He is a rare star in the classical music and more with his work as an ambassador for UNICEF. Lang Lang has fan clubs and a shoe with Adidas.

His story starts at the beginning with his earliest memories of family and the piano. He remembers sitting at the piano at 2 years of age and practicing the piano by age 3. By the age of 5 he wins his first piano competition against much older students. Lang Lang seldom watches tv, plays with friends or with toys although he loves transformers. He practices the piano for hours every day. When it becomes clear Lang Lang is a musical prodigy his father takes him to live in Beijing and audition for a prestigious music academy. This takes Lang Lang away from his mother as she stays behind to work and support the family. He is only 8 when he goes to Beijing and 10 when he wins a scholarship placement at the music academy.

Lang Lang’s story is amazing and sad as he recalls his childhood and his relationship with his father in a very factual way. Lang Lang misses his mother greatly and goes years without seeing her so that he may further his piano career. His father seems only to care about Lang Lang winning first place in competitions. Lang Lang has music to comfort him and seems to escape his life in his practicing. Lang Lang doesn’t come across as bitter and makes an attempt to explain the Chinese culture of competition and his father’s temperament which seems abusive to my western viewpoint.

Lang Lang recently visited my home town of Portland, Oregon and his performance made the front page. I unfortunately didn’t see him perform but after reading his story I will definitely make an effort.

This is an engaging autobiography about someone who accomplishes amazing things in their early teens. I was moved by this book. I think teens will be hooked reading about someone living so completely different. They will be shocked and angry about the things that happen to Lang Lang but all the drama and triumph is what makes this a compelling story. There is a map, timelines, vital stats and fun facts about Lang Lang, and a glossary to help round out any paper on a famous person.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

"Along the way, readers will absorb a considerable amount about China, its history and culture, as well as the power of all kinds of music, particularly classical." (read more...)

More Information:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385735782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385735780
  • Source: Publisher Review Copy
Listen to some samples of Lang Lang's music here.

Stop by Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day for more Nonfiction Monday delights.


  1. How interesting! I'd like to read this one.

  2. Erica, I loved this book and wrote a little about it at Mommy's Favorite Children's books. Thanks for sharing your review!