“Shine!” by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is an inspiring book about doing the right thing, even when that option isn’t easy at all. After a teacher asks his students to write about who they want to be, not what they want to be, Piper, the main character has a lot to think about.
Piper Milly has always been more of a ‘blender’ (into the crowd) than someone who stands out, and she does not have any talents to show off. On Christmas Eve, Piper is hoping to get a gift that has to do with astronomy, maybe a book by her hero, astronaut and astronomer Nellie Dumont Frissé. She does end up getting the book she had hoped for, but along with that she gets some pretty bad news. Her dad is excited because he got offered a job as the music teacher at Chumley Prep (remember “Treasure Hunters: Danger Down the Nile”?), and he informs Piper that she will be going there now, too. Chumley Prep is the same school where her mom, the late Antoinette Poliesei, played cello. She was practically a child prodigy when she was there. Piper thinks she is far from being a child prodigy; in fact, she thinks she is very average. Piper is sad that she will have to leave her old friends, but she does not want to disappoint her dad because he is really happy that he got the job.
At Chumley Prep, Piper makes some friends: Siraj and Emily, who are both really smart; Kwame, who is the class clown; and Tim, who is always working on a new magic trick. Piper also has a new enemy: Ainsley Braden-Hammershmidt. She is a blustery bully who likes to make fun of Piper as often as possible.
When the principal announces the new Excelsior award, which will be given to the student who excels the most in the next few months, Piper starts to wonder. Could this be her big chance to finally win something? Can she stop being a blender and learn how to shine?
Review by Jamie L.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Random House Books for Young Readers, the publisher, for review purposes.