Saturday, November 09, 2019


Grabenstein, J.J. and Chris. Shine!
November 5th 2019 by Random House Books for Young
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Piper Milly and her father live on the east coast, where her father teaches music at a local middle school in order to give her more stability than his dream job of writing Broadway musicals, since her mother died when she was three. Piper is interested in space and is a big fan of the scientist and personality Nellie Dumont Frisse, and she's trying to decide who she wants to be as a person. When her father takes a better paying job at Chumley Prep, where her cello prodigy mother excelled back in the day, Piper feels even more pressure to make something of herself. She is glad to walk a dog for a neighbor, but when the school announces the Excelsior competition, her new friends Tim, Siraj, Emily and Kwame (who dub themselves the Hibbleflitts) help her try to ace the science fair, talent show, and other showcases of awesomeness so that she can live up to her mother's legacy. Her nemesis is Ainsley, who is bound and determined to win the award, even if it means disqualifying Piper's entries on technicalities. When the award is announced, Piper finds that the criteria depended more on being kind than on any academic or extracurricular activity.
Strengths: This has engaging characters, a simple plot, and a nice message. I can see this being used in a classroom, as a follow up to Palacio's Wonder. I especially appreciated that while Piper wasn't thrilled about starting a new school in the middle of the year, she realized it was a good opportunity that would make her father happy, and she didn't complain.
Weaknesses: It seems unlikely that a private school would offer a better salary than a public one, but East Coast private schools are something I just don't understand.
What I really think: This would be a fantastic choice for elementary students who want to read about middle school and is a great treatise on kindness. I'm just not sure how well it would go over with my middle school students.

Shulz, Charles M. Charlie Brown: All Tied Up (PEANUTS AMP Series Book 13): A PEANUTS Collection
October 15th 2019 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

With fifty years of daily strips in existence, there could be hundreds of these collections of Peanuts comics, and there would be students who would read them all. I'm going to guess that these date from the late '70s or early '80s; there's a Valentine Disco dance, and Snoopy runs an airline. I don't know if these collections are edited and more topical strips removed, but it is surprising how well these hold up today. Shulz had a real eye for ordinary amusing things--Peppermint Patty briefly dates Pig Pen, who loves that she doesn't want to change him, except, of course she does; Linus sets out flares around a crabby Lucy, and Charlie contemplates whether he is boring. There's usually a bit or two that seem oddly modern in each of these books, and in this case, Harriet the bird scout out hikes the boy bird scouts, although she also brings along a cake with Seven Minute Frosting.

Our local newspaper only runs Peanuts on Sunday, so this was a welcome reminder of the years of comics Shulz penned. With the holidays approaching, keep this in mind for young comics lovers on your book list. To me, the Peanuts gang is an essential part of Christmas because of the holiday special AND the holiday ornaments and cards that were so wide spread in the late 1970s.


  1. I can concur that East Coast private schools pay approximately 50% less than public school teachers to my knowledge. I live in the Boston area and have seen stats for teachers' salaries.

    1. Thank you! That was what I thought. I started teaching at a private school and didn't make half of what public school teachers made.