Author: J.J. and Chris Grabenstein
Age Range: 8-12
Shine! is a just-released title by the husband-and-wife writing team of J.J. and Chris Grabenstein. I read it last weekend in a single sitting, and thought that it was wonderful. I highly recommend it for upper elementary schoolers. I'm going to give it to my daughter when she is a bit more willing to give non-illustrated fiction a fair shake.
In Shine!, a girl named Piper is given an unexpected chance to attend a fancy private school, when her father is hired to be the school's new music director. Piper, an aspiring astronomer, is perfectly happy at her regular school, but agrees to the switch because it pleases her widowed father SO much to be able to give her the opportunity. The new school, Chumley Prep, is full driven, ambitious kids who live in huge houses and spend their spare time at the country club. There is a mean girl queen bee who sets out to make Piper's life miserable, but she finds friends, too. A school-wide contest win a new award catches Piper up in a wave of complex dynamics, however, and she struggles to remain true to herself.
Shine! is going to draw comparisons to Wonder. To me, the comparison is this: like Wonder, Shine! sets out explicitly to convey a particular message. In this case, the message (in simple terms) is that there are more important things than blindly pursuing achievement. As was the case with R.J. Palacio's Wonder, I feel that the authors were able to get this message across in a way that doesn't feel didactic. This is a very tricky thing to pull off (and I am highly skeptical of books that attempt it).
I'm not completely sure how the Grabensteins were able to achieve this balance. I think it comes down to Piper being down-to-earth and likable throughout, combined with ever-so-slightly over-the-top experiences. It's a mark of what an engaging character Piper is that I saw the ending coming a mile away, but still kept eagerly reading to see the details. And many of the details, as one might expect from a book co-written by Chris Grabenstein, are funny.
Shine! is a quick engaging read that I really think both kids and adults will enjoy. It's a book with humor and heart, bearing a message that is both timely and important. [Ms. Yingling likes it, too, though noting that it's more a book for elementary than middle schoolers.] Piper is a relatable character with whom any reader would be happy to spend some time. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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