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.

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