Cover Image: Shine!


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Member Reviews

I thought this was a bit predictable and a little heavy handed, but still a very enjoyable read. Piper Milly is a such a likeable character that kids in grades 4-6 will definitely be able to relate to. Grabenstein fans will love this story about getting ahead by being kind and putting others first. Just enough tension without being too much drama.
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By the time I finished reading JJ and Chris Grabenstein’s new middle grade novel, Shine!, all I could think was: “Wow, what a great story.” That really sums up how I feel about it. Shine! really is just a really great story. It’s a quick, easy read that focuses on believing in oneself, never giving up, and just generally being a good person. It doesn’t come off as too heavy handed and it doesn’t preach. It’s just a fun, relatable, and even believable story that middle grade readers will hopefully love.

Shine! leans on some familiar plot points as we see our heroine, Piper Milly, suddenly thrust into a brand-new, preppy, private school after her father gets an unexpected new job. While both of her parents were musically inclined, Milly is more traditionally nerdy and loves astronomy. But her new school is suddenly abuzz after a new, mysterious award which requires students to ‘simply excel’ – whatever that means.

The Excelsior Award is a chance for Piper to have her name on a fancy placard on the school’s hall of fame the same as her mother who she lost at a young age. She and her friends find themselves trying to win one for the nerds while going up against her arch-nemesis, Ainsley, who seems to feel she’s entitled to win. Throughout the school year Piper tries to excel while ultimately just modeling what it’s like to be a good person, to make mistakes, to forgive others, to try your best, and more.

Win or lose, those are important lessons for kids to learn and they’re shown in a very subtle way.

I’m not exaggerating when I say Shine! is a great story. I read it one sitting and I’d probably read it again. It’s the kind of book I wish my son would pick up and that’ll continue to encourage him to read. Piper Milly is a very cool character and a good literary role model. (Except maybe for name-calling Ainsley as Painsley but knowing a really awesome middle schooler named Ainsley probably makes be a bit defensive.)
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When Piper's father takes a new job as a music teacher a Chumley Prep, part of the deal is that she will attend tuition free. This means a new friends, new foes, and a new school culture which involves a brand new competition called the Excelsior Award.  The award seeks to find the most outstanding Chumley Student.  Everyone assumes the deciding factors will be based on excellence in academics, the arts, sports, hobbies, and community service. However the award's creator is looking for excellence that can only be demonstrated in very special ways. There are a few themes--  grief, confidence,  and the realization that all of us have value, This is a terrific middle grade plot with realistic characters, with a storyline that keeps giving, especially the astronomy and friendship plot points,, and an ending that will have you cheering!
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I loved this book so much.  As an adult reader I caught on pretty quickly to how things were going to play out (except for one surprise) but it was a fun ride and most of the intended audience won't see it coming.  I think that is what clinched it for me - the audience.  Too many books for middle grade students these days are too heavy, too agenda driven, and too long.  This was pure middle grade fun.  Loved it.
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This is a delightful contemporary realistic fiction, and I think with a little booktalking it would probably circulate well in my library. Many readers will feel a connection to Piper and her feelings of inferiority, especially when she is plopped into a new school situation where she is surrounded by superstars. The ending is a bit predictable, but it's still a fun read and your kiddos will be cheering for Piper all along the way.
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A delightful read. I love Chris's work, and this one really does shine. I've already bought copies for some of my favorite little readers.
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Shine! is a phenomenal journey into understanding not only who are you, but also the type of person that you want to be. After her father accepts a new job at a local private school, 12 year old Piper is forced to leave her old school behind and attend Chumley Prep. Chumley Prep, posh and extravagant, is a school where Piper believes she'll never fit in; however, with a help of a group of friends and some pretty amazing teachers Piper learns that you can never judge anything on the service. Told in short, but dynamic chapters, Shine! teachers readers to embrace the beauty of self-love. 

One of the more intriguing parts of this book was the character development. I love that J.J. and Chris explored the concept of self-love and self-confidence but in a way that is appropriate for readers that are children. Piper has a quite a few self-esteem issues that stem from constantly comparing herself to others. In the beginning of the novel, the reader sees her constantly struggle with comparing herself to how successful her mother and father are as musicians. She doesn't feel as though she has any talent or anything to offer; however, while at Chumley Prep, Piper does learn how gifted and talented she is and how much she has to offer the community. I also truly enjoyed the friendship that evolved between Piper and some of the other students at Chumley. She went into the school with a preconceived notion that all the kids were wealthy and stuck up, but what she truly found were kids that were just like her. Sure, they were wealthy, but a lot of them had the same interests and passions as her. 

The only thing that I had trouble with in this novel was the plot development. When the plot of the Excelsior award was introduced to reader, it was pretty easy to figure out how the plot was going to develop. It was also obvious how Piper could possibly end up being a good contender for receiving that award. Because it was so obvious, it made the plot feel rather repetitive and predictable which took away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. If the plot was a little less formulaic I would have given the novel five stars. 

Overall, I really did enjoy this book. I thought it was well written and it was fun gaining insight and perspective to these characters. If you're looking for a children's book that explores self-esteem I would definitely check this one out.
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This was a great children's book that focuses on being yourself.  It made my son laugh and feel for the characters!  I highly recommend!
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Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Author: JJ and Chris Grabenstein

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Publisher: Random House

Recommended Age: 10+ (bullying)

Synopsis: “Who do you want to be?” asks Mr. Van Deusen. “And not when you grow up. Right here, right now.”

Shine on! might be the catchphrase of twelve-year-old Piper’s hero–astronaut, astronomer, and television host Nellie Dumont Frisse–but Piper knows the truth: some people are born to shine, and she’s just not one of them. That fact has never been clearer than now, since her dad’s new job has landed them both at Chumley Prep, a posh private school where everyone seems to be the best at something and where Piper definitely doesn’t fit in.

Bursting with humor, heart, science, possibilities, and big questions, Shine! is a story about finding your place in the universe–a story about figuring out who you are and who you want to be.

Review: I really enjoyed this book. It was a cute story for younger kids that show the love of STEM/science and individuality. I think it’s really important to get kids interested in STEM centered courses and I love that the main character was interested in it. I also think it’s really important seeing as the main character was a female and I think we, as a society, still have a way to go in encouraging females to persue STEM classes. Also, the overall message is amazing. Figuring out who you want to be isn’t for when you just “grow up”. It’s a now thing and an always thing. You change, you grow, you should always be thinking of who you aspire to be and how you can improve for now and not later.

My only downside is that sometimes during the book the pacing wanes and I feel like the bully issue wasn’t entirely resolved but otherwise it was a great read!

Verdict: Definitely a book for yourself or younger kids!
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If you're at all familiar with middle grade fiction, you'll likely be able to predict the final scenes of this book within the first couple of chapters. This means that the value of this story is the lessons the characters read along the way. The final lessons are obvious. The lessons about people being more than they appear, more than your first impressions, are in some ways more important. Even these lessons are fairly heavy handed, but this is often the case with middle grade fiction. More importantly, the characters all have at least a little complexity. They make wrong decisions but find ways to make it up to the people they've wronged. They regret bad choices and resolve to do better. While I might have liked a slightly more complex ending, the one we get is reasonable. It's not a mind blowing read, but a decently enjoyable one.
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Shine! is another amazing book by Chris Grabenstein. I loved watching the character develop as she navigates throughout the story. This is a feel good book for middle grades.
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I want to hug this book! This was delightful. Piper is the sort of middle grade protagonist I adore - smart, quirky, and kind. I loved the group of friends she finds at Chumley, and the ways she discovers to be herself there. This would be perfect for a classroom read aloud, a book group, reading at home, classroom libraries and all the rest. Don't miss this one.
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SHINE! is an absolutely beautiful story about deciding who you want to be, kindness, and finding your own path. Piper Milly is the daughter of an aspiring musician who dreams of writing and producing his own musical but teaches middle school choir to make ends meet. After his a capella group wins a big competition, he is offered a newly vacated job at the fancy private school, Chumley Prep. As part of the deal, he gets free tuition for Piper, which he eagerly accepts.

Piper is not sure how she feels about going to this new school, but she is eager to make her father happy. After she arrives, she learns that she not only has a bully in another student, but also a wonderful group of like-minded friends. When a teacher challenges them to think of who they want to be- now, not just when they grow up- Piper begins to think carefully about who she does or doesn't want to be.

Along the way, Piper reiterates the value of doing the right thing, helping others, and of having friends and family. She also learns to empathize with her bully.

This story is really beautiful, and I would highly recommend for even younger middle grade readers. Piper is a fantastic character- and I really love that she was STEM oriented plus an all-around amazing person. The end of the story was beyond perfect, and I'll admit that I cried some happy tears. Pick up this book! You won't regret it.

Please note that I received an ARC. All opinions are my own.
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I was really looking forward to reading SHINE!, and it did not disappoint. I loved Piper, the sweet message (while still providing plenty of depth in plot and character).

I've been a big fan of Chris Grabenstein's work; I think SHINE! shows a new side to his writing. JJ Grabenstein clearly should have started writing long ago! Such a great book, one that gets it right on all levels: plot, character, setting, and theme.

I could see SHINE! being a great classroom read, at-home read for a family, and perfect for all ages. Highly recommend.
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Piper’s dad has the opportunity to teach in a private school and Piper gets a free education.  She needs to figure out how to fit in with a group of talented, wealthy and entitled students.  Her journey wasn’t too rough as she finds a squad with similar interest.  Piper still has some troubles navigating some friendship issues.  I love the she is a STEM girl and the overall message of kindness is obvious and valuable.
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Loved it! Hope this talended duo write more books together on Chumley Prep.

Lemoncello was my favorite series by Grabenstein, but this one is a strong contender. Will be re-reading it as a in-class novel for my 6th graders. Will be recommending it to others.
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I  received a free digital copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review.

Honestly, I love all things by Chris Grabenstein. To hear he put out a book with his wife JJ? I was down with it. 

I enjoyed this sweet book. It's all about learning where you fit in at a new school while learning to be true to yourself!
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Great story about what it means to be a good student.   Each character has Talents and gifts that are unique to each person,  teacher will enjoy using this as a read aloud and will be able to challenge their own kids to think about they want to be when they grow up.  Great read aloud for elementary students.
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This book should be required reading for ALL middle school students. I cried at the end. I had a feeling that it was going to play out a certain way, and I’m SO glad I was right. This book is brilliant in every way. Not only does it showcase the power that one child has to make a difference, our MC, Piper, was into science and astronomy. I LOVE middle grades books with female characters that like science. We need more books like this. I found myself highlighting so many quotes that I can’t wait to add to my Reading Graffiti bulletin board when the book is released. I also plan to use this book on my Mock Newbery club, as I truly believe it should be in contention for the award in January.

I received an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.
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Shine! tells my favorite kind of middle grade story: coming of age and discovering who you are! We’re introduced to Piper who suddenly has to move from her public school to the preppy private school because her dad got a new job. We watch Piper face a series of growing pains as she tries to adjust to her new school including a popular bully named Ainsley who tries to thwart her at every turn. 

The drama only heightens when an announcement that an award will be given out for the student who excels the most. We’re left to wonder just who might win as Piper continuously has to choose between winning and her friends again and again. 

Shine! is funny and charming, and the space theme is amazing! The story weaving is absolutely perfect, and I feel that it hits right on the head of the suggested age range. 

Loved: I absolutely loved how kind Piper is. In a  generation that was a little obsessed with the mean girls movement, the fact that Piper is anything but a mean girl is refreshing. Even in the moments that she may seem a little selfish, I think it is something that comes with such big emotions and disappointments and is totally understandable for that age range. 

I also loved the little smidge of a glimpse Piper gets into Ainsley’s maybe not so perfect life. 

Disliked: Ugh!!! Ainsley stayed a mean girl in the end? Understandable, but I was hoping for some growth from her character. However, it does reflect the fact that sometimes people just don’t grow. 

I would totally gift/recommend this book for any middle school aged reader or anyone who loves stories of girls who are kind and keep aiming for the moon. 

I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the authors for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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