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Author: Grabenstein, J. J.
When seventh-grader Piper's father is hired by Chumley Prep, a school where every student seems to be the best at everything, she gets the chance to compete for the prestigious Excelsior Award.
Kirkus Reviews (09/01/19)
School Library Journal (11/01/19)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 10/15/2019 Piper is smart, kind, and obsessed with astronomy, but she has always been overshadowed by her beloved late mother’s legacy of excelling at, well, everything, and as Piper starts the spring semester of seventh grade at her mom’s former prep school, that shadow engulfs her even more fully. When the school announces that a mysterious new award will be given to a student who excels, Piper wonders if she can finally find a way to truly shine and match her mother’s glory. This is a story that happily upsets the trope of the lonely new kid in school, with Piper having an array of quirky friends and helpful teachers, plus a doting father and female astronomer role model to help her navigate the maze of middle school as well as the competition. The Grabensteins’ writing is warm and humorous, sneaking in the occasional astronomy fact along the way. This gentle book offers a wonderful reminder that kindness, generosity, and love far outweigh the importance of money, awards, and prestige. - Copyright 2019 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 11/01/2019 Gr 4–6—Seventh-grader Piper is heartbroken when she learns that she has to leave her public school and begin mid-year at Chumley Prep, the local independent school. Her father, a choral teacher who dreams of writing Broadway musicals, has been offered a position at Chumley which comes with full tuition for Piper. Since Piper's mother died when she was three, she and her father have supported each other, and Piper knows how important this opportunity is to him. Just as Piper expects, she initially feels out of place and some of the Chumley students are not very welcoming—especially Ainsley Braden-Hammerschmidt, who tries to sabotage all of Piper's attempts to thrive at her new school. When an award for the student who "most fully demonstrates overall excellence" is announced, some of the students plan strategies to win the anonymous judge's favor. Piper, who shines primarily in science, does not feel confident about winning the award. By the end of the book, Piper has embraced a diverse group of new friends, connected with several teachers, and learned to love her school. VERDICT Piper is likeable and empathetic and the "bad guys," while exaggerated, make this a lighthearted and fast-paced book. The strong message about the power of kindness will be encouraging to readers, and fans of Grabenstein's "Mr. Lemoncello" series will enjoy a different kind of puzzle.—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA - Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.