Every now and then I get to take a break from some of my heavier reading and get a reminder of how much fun it can be to read something geared to early readers. Piper Reed, The Great Gypsy by Kimberly Willis Holt is one of those books.
I’ve been of fan of Holt’s since reading My Louisiana Sky several years ago. Being from Louisiana originally, I was particularly taken with a book set there that didn’t involve negative clichés about the state or its people one often sees in works set in Louisiana. And I liked the story of a pre-teen girl who must choose between living a glamorous like with her sophisticated aunt or staying to live with her mentally challenged parents.
Piper Reed has appeal for younger readers in large part, because Holt has a very down-to-earth voice that imparts lessons to younger readers without being preachy. Readers get a glimpse of what life is like for the family of a military man when he is on assignment for long periods of time and they remain on the base. But they also get to know and love Piper, a middle sister who does her best to make friends wherever her family is stationed.
The book also makes use of its setting in Pensacola, Florida, to help readers learn something of the area. Piper and her family take short vacations to the beach and to New Orleans, with descriptions of each place that may help to spark interest in learning more about them. It all ties into a navy family’s exploration of a new area they move into and adapt to.
Younger readers in particular will be able to identify with Piper’s desire to win the prize at the pet show she puts on and the conflicts that arise with her sisters. Now, I’m inspired to go back and read the first book in this series, Piper Reed, Navy Brat.