Books: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree and Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Too Much Good Luck
Author: Ellen Potter
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Pages: 112 / 128
Age Range: 7-9
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree is the first book in a fun new illustrated early chapter book series written by Ellen Potter and illustrated by Qin Leng. Piper is a second grader who lives on tiny Peek-a-Boo Island, which is apparently off the coast of Maine. Because there are only eight K-8 kids on Peek-a-Boo island, Piper rides a lobster boat every day to attend school on the slightly larger Mink Island. She also has a Fairy Tree in her front yard.
Piper reminds me quite a lot of Clementine. She gets funny ideas in her head, and doesn't hesitate to speak her mind. Her enthusiasms sometimes get her into trouble. Her trials in the series opener include her sadness over the departure of her older brother, who has gone to live on the mainland to attend high school, and her adjustment to having a new, slightly crabby, teacher. But the Fairy Tree, discovered via the guidance of a quirky elderly neighbor, offers a significant consolation.
Here are a couple of snippets, to give you a feel for Piper's voice:
"I tried not to look over at the empty chair. It's the chair that Erik usually sits in. But my eyes have a mind of their own. They peeked.
It was the saddest-looking empty chair I had ever seen." (Page 10)
"Leo (Piper's little brother) tells everyone that he is married. His wife is named Michelle and she is a piece of paper. Their children are three yellow Post-it notes that he stuck on Michelle." (Page 16)
Qin Leng's black and white illustrations show Piper as tow-headed and a bit dirty, with (at least at times) a stubborn set to her posture. There are lovely maps of the islands at the front of the book, sure to fascinate young readers.
I think that the romance of Piper's island life, combined with the magic of the Fairy Tree, make Piper Green and the Fairy Tree highly kid-friendly. There are also delicious baked goods, adorable kittens, and comfortable friendships. As a special bonus for me, a New England transplant, there are people who say "wicked" (meaning "excellent"). (All that is missing is references to watching the Red Sox. Perhaps in later books...)
Book 2, Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Too Much Luck picks up shortly after Book 1. Piper thinks that she is having a great day when she has not one, two, or three but FOUR pieces of good luck. Unfortunately, her friend Jacob tells her that according to his dad, "four lucky things is TOO MUCH good luck. And too much good luck equals bad luck."
New trials include the finding of only one earring (vs. a pair) in the Fairy Tree, and, more importantly, the arrival of a new student who is allergic to Piper's beloved class pet. Piper's attempt to scare the new student away does not go well, but it all turns out ok in the end. As a parent, I like that all of Piper's authority figures come down hard on her - reasonable punishment and profuse apologies are a given.
Here's my favorite quote from Book 2:
""Ruby, Ruby! Guess what?" I ran right up to her and did a binky. A binky is this thing that Nacho does when he's happy. Nacho is our class bunny and he is the sweetest, most adorable bunny you have ever seen in your life. When he does a binky, he pops right up in the air and kicks out his hind legs. Ruby and I started doing binkies, too, whenever we're happy. It makes you look like a total madman, but we don't care." (Page 28-29)
Side bonus_ a cheerful illustration of Piper and Ruby doing binkies, while a younger boy hides under the slide, watching. Incidentally, small islands off the coast of Maine are not likely to be bastions of diversity, but as another small bonus, Leng has rendered Ruby Asian-American.
I think that the Piper Green series is a promising addition to the ranks of early chapter books. Librarians serving new readers will definitely want to take a look at these. The setting is inherently interesting, and there's just the tiniest hint of magic to add an extra thrill. Piper is not a very "girly" girl, and I see no reason why boys wouldn't enjoy this series just as much as girls do. There are boats, and smelly fish, donuts, and class pets. What's not to love? Recommended for newly independent readers, age 7 to 9.
Publisher: Yearling Books (Knopf Books for Young Readers) (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher
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