My first encounter with Ellen Potter’s writing was with her delightfully whimsical Olivia Kidney series, so I was interested to read this series geared toward early chapter book readers. It follows Piper Green, a second-grader who lives on Peek-a-boo Island in Maine and takes a lobster boat to school. Once island children reach eighth grade, they head off to boarding school on the mainland. Piper’s older brother has just made that jump and she misses him so much that she insists on wearing his monkey earmuffs. Every single day. Piper’s new teacher does not appreciate this, and Piper decides she simply won’t go to school. While she is hiding from her mother, her neighbor, Mrs. Pennypacker, tells her all about a fairy tree in her yard. If you leave a gift for the fairies, they will leave a gift for you.

Piper is a delightfully authentic little girl, just trying to cope with change to the best of her ability. Skipping school isn’t an act of defiance; it’s simply the best option she can come up with when her teacher tells her not to come to school wearing her beloved earmuffs but she can’t bear to take them off. Adults around her discuss the seriousness of her action, but they are also wonderfully supportive and understanding. The remote island, the fairy tree–it’s all very magical, and by the end, Piper will have found a way to enjoy second grade, with some help from fairies and her family.

Lilah and I were both charmed by the story, enhanced by Qin Leng’s sweet illustrations, and immediately turned to the sequel.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.


Lilah and I were both eager to see what Piper is up to this time, and it’s a doozy. Piper is such a realistic little girl, not perfect, but not mean-spirited, and she sometimes makes big mistakes. When she has a run of good luck, she starts to worry that bad luck will soon follow, and it does, in the form of a new student who is allergic to the class rabbit, Nacho. Piper adores Nacho, so she decides to loathe the new girl, Camilla, and tells her a horrible story that their teacher is actually a witch. (“Oh, Piper,” Lilah said at this point. “That is just not okay.”) Her parents make her apologize (while sympathizing with how much she misses Nacho – that’s something I love about the adults in these books – they listen) and the fairy tree helps her in an unexpected way.

The magic of the remote island setting (Camilla lives in the lighthouse) is charming, and the fairy tree provides a touch of the supernatural without giving Piper solutions to her problems outright. She lives in a supportive community (the lobster boatman who takes the children to Mink Island to school every day has a wife who sends baked goods for them every morning, for example). Her parents don’t just yell at her when she behaves…well, like a child. They listen and understand (though note that they still made her apologize when it was called for) and try to help Piper deal with her emotions. She’s navigating childhood the best she can, and she’s charming while doing it.

Lilah and I might have liked this second book in the series even better than the first, and we look forward to more.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.