The Rising Star of Rusty Nail
Author: Lesley M. M. Blume
Pages: 288
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf/Random House/2007
ISBN: 0375835245
Age Levels: 9-12

Book Review

Franny Hansen is a ten-year-old piano prodigy living in the small town of Rusty Nail, Minnesota, in 1953. "In reality," notes Franny, "it was little more than a bunch of dusty houses and stores clumped together in the middle of nowhere."

To Franny and her best friend Sandy, however, the tiny town is the "center of the universe." They spend their free time lobbing water bombs off the roof of Franny’s apartment, going to movies, and attempting to gain the upper hand over their arch nemesis, the rich and prissy Nancy Orilee.

Soon a new resident arrives, Russian-born Olga Malenkov, world-famous concert pianist. The townsfolk of Rusty Nail, suspicious of anything remotely Russian, refer to the outsider as "the Commie." Franny convinces the woman to give her piano lessons in return for help around the house. Under Madame Malenkov’s tutelage, Franny’s skill and passion grow.

To Franny's surprise, Madame Malenkov enters her and Nancy into a prestigious state-wide piano contest. Unfortunately for Franny, Nancy’s father bribes the judges and Nancy—a mediocre player—takes the prize. Franny is devastated. All is not lost, however, as Franny soon discovers. Life as she knows it is about to change forever.

Although set against the backdrop of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, the story itself is humorous, at times laugh-out-loud funny. Blume has created an action-filled tale that conveys a wonderful sense of place and is peopled with quirky characters.

As the author notes in the forward, the book "is modeled on that of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 1, op. 18." Part One, Moderato:
is fast and spirited, and sets the stage for what is to come.

Part Two, "Adagio," is named for the concerto’s second movement. In it tension slowly builds, leading up to big excitement in the third movement.

And finally, Part Three is called "Allegro." Swift and riveting, it is the dramatic culmination of the entire performance.
Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2007 Education Oasis

About the Author

Lesley M. M. Blume is an author and journalist based in New York City. For more information, visit the author's website.