Tuesday 22 August 2023

The Piano At The Station, written by Helen Rutter, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, reviewed by Pippa Goodhart


    There are some aspects of present day life in the UK that are wonderful, and the placing of pianos in railway station concourses and shopping centres is one of them. That unexpected treat of music of different kinds, often wonderfully played, coming at is in the midst of life's business is uplifting. And the variety of very different individuals playing that music is a lesson in humanity.

    This story gives us a wonderful fictional example of an unlikely child pianist playing one of those pianos. Lacey is in Year 7 at school, but she and school do not get on well. The story opens with ...

    'LACEY LAYTON!' Mr Jenson yells. 'I am sick and tired of hearing your voice.'

    I'm about to get kicked out - again. I just need to say one more thing and I'll be free. 

Does she say just one more thing? She does ...

    'Well, I'm sick and tired of hearing your voice, sir,' I say with a smirk. It works.

Rebellious, friendless, witty Lacey's life is a chaotic mess at home, too. But, against her expectations, something subtly shifts when an empathetic, non-judgemental music teacher with a sense of humour lures her into finding she can enjoy making up her own tunes on the piano. Her life calms, and she's happier, the instinct to quarrel softened. But then that music teacher leaves. Furious Lacey vows never to play the piano again ... until she discovers that piano on the station that empties off people at night. But that piano is about to be removed. Unless Lacey can help to save it.

    Difficult, rebellious Lacey is depicted with humour and understanding, and the story twists and keeps us hooked right until the end. A very satisfying read. The illustrations show Lacey's feelings, and the feelings of those around her, brilliantly, taking us further into her experience of it all. 

    I'm just re-reading KM Peyton's trilogy of stories about rebellious 1970s youth Patrick Pennington who, against stereotype, is a brilliant pianist. This story, published by Barrington Stoke with dyslexic readers in mind, is a shorter and more accessible story that achieves the same satisfaction of the child seen by herself and others as a no-hoper proving that judgement wrong. 


Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for reviewing this book, Pippa! Look a lovely title and a delightful idea - and I'd imagine a story involving music would be welcomed in schools.

We loved the Piano programme but even before then, Someone Musical home here would always searching railway termini for random pianos when we were travelling.

There was, for many years, a piano at Leeds main station, positioned in the corridor from the main concourse to the car park exit, passing by the hotel's rear entrance. Sadly, covid fears and a station makeover probably cleared away the original increasingly toothless piano. The piano from the tv show is certainly no longer around. A pity!

Penny Dolan said...

Hi again! What I also like, from your description of this book, is that the plot, setting and solution seem to happen in 'real life', rather than as magic or fantasy.

Many young readers prefer reading about real/everyday life, as I think Jacqueline Wilson has pointed out recently.