May 26th, 2013

recognizing a musical prodigy in middle school

Setting: Boston (USA) suburb, contemporary with certain SFnal elements

I have a character who is musically gifted, but is not recognized as such until he is eleven. At home a lot of the family life revolves around an older sister who is otherwise-gifted and has a strong personality, and at school his classmates are kind of rowdy (not necessarily malicious, just “hyper”), so even though the school does have a good music program, in class he is too distracted to play at his best and his teacher is too distracted to notice his potential.

Then one day at school, when he isn’t surrounded by other kids, our hero picks up a violin and plays [A], and his music teacher, overhearing it, realizes because of [B] how much talent he has. The teacher arranges for private lessons, building on the [C] that the child already knows, in which he does a lot of [D] and after a few months is able to [E].

I’m looking for reasonable ways to fill in [A] through [E] above. Also, I am wondering how well he could sight-read music before going down the private-lesson path.

I did some Googling for music curricula, but that didn’t make it clear to me what specific skills would be considered typical for someone at various age levels and what would be considered exceptional. I’m also reading Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree, which has a chapter on musical prodigies, but the kids he describes there were conspicuously talented as far back as kindergarten, and my character isn’t that good.

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Book of Legal Code Found in Illinois Public Libraries?

Just found this place, so I hope I'm doing everything right. . .

Setting: Southside of Chicago, IL, 1978

What I need to know: Is it reasonable for a neighborhood library to have a bound copy of Illinois Legal Code (specifically the Criminal Code) in its reference section? Or is this the sort of thing that would only be found at the central library downtown? Or only in a specialized law library?

What I tried: Google, with terms like "legal code book" and "public library" adding and subtracting "Illinois" and "criminal" in varying combinations. But all I could find were actual Illinois statutes related to libraries. I wanted to just search the Chicago Public Library catalog, but when I go to their site I keep getting error messages.

Summer Constellations in the UK

Story Setting: California in the year 2000

What I'm Looking For: I'm writing a scene where two characters are star gazing. One of the characters is British. My question is do constellations go by different names in the UK? For example Ursa Major which I've always heard, here in the USA, called Big Dipper, but I've read on several websites it is called The Plough in the U.K. So, I'm wondering is this the case with other constellations? I'm specifically wondering about the Summer Constellations. These include, along with Ursa Major:


  • Ursa Minor


  • Botes/Boötes


  • Lyra


  • Aquila


  • Cygnus


  • Sagittarius


  • Scorpius


  • Hercules

Searched: So far I've used Google with search terms such as: "star constellation names in the UK", or "constellation names in England. So far this has lead me to lists of the Latin and English names, but not the common everyday names like Big Dipper.