Again, Josefina!

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Jean-Paul Tibbles, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, and Phillip Hood


One evening as the family is listening to Tia Dolores play the piano, Josefina asks to learn to play it herself. Tia Dolores says if it's okay with Josefina's father, it's okay with her. Josefina's father says she can if she's still able to fulfill her responsibilities (household chores and watching her little nephew Antonio) and if she commits to learning the skill well, so she won't waste her aunt's time. The same offer is made to her sisters, but only Josefina wants to learn to play piano.

Although Josefina was prepared by her father about how long it might take to master the piano, her first lesson is still discouraging. Her aunt keeps prodding her to repeat things until they're perfect ("Again, Josefina."). The lesson seems to last forever, and she only plays ten notes, not any music. Still, she agrees to practice between lessons, hopeful that soon she'll get to play actual music. But it's difficult to find time, especially since Antonio seems to be giving up his naps. She's hardly making any progress, and Clara and Francisca tease her. She decides to give up, and asks her father for permission. He refuses, telling instead to practice more because she can't let a little frustration stop her desire to learn.

So Josefina has to be creative. She practices finger movements while she prepares food, and works on her posture during chores. She makes some improvements and her aunt teaches her a simple song. But it's not simple enough for the novice student, and Josefina is embarrassed when she can't play it well. Her oldest sister offers her some encouragement, telling her that she's seen how Josefina is working her practice into her chores...and that needs Josefina to watch Antonio. Ana suggests playing the piano to see if the toddler likes it.

And he does! He doesn't mind Josefina's mistakes, and his clumsy dancing encourages Josefina to overcome her embarrassment (and his shouts of "Again, Josefina!"). His determination to dance despite only just learning to walk also inspires Josefina. After just that afternoon, Josefina has the confidence to learn piano. She knows she won't be perfect right away, but she also knows she doesn't have to be.

Looking Back

In the harsh life of the high desert, the people who lived there needed moments to escape. Obviously there was no television or radio or internet, and books were rare even among the few literate people. Music became the popular option, and people held dance parties every chance they could. Most instruments were simple; something like the piano that Tia Dolores had was rare. Songs were used to teach as well as entertain: many songs helped children memorize historical facts or taught about religious values.

Tia Dolores is teaching her nieces to read and write.

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