18052929School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: ALAMW2014
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Who’s got time for hair curlers and high heels when you’re busy keeping baby turtles alive?

Chip has always been a tree-climbin’, fish-catchin’ daddy’s girl. When Daddy dies, Mama moves her and her sisters south to Grandma’s house and Chip struggles to find her place in a family full of beauty queens.

Just when she’s wishing for a sign from Daddy that her new life’s going to work, Chip discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm. Could unusual pageant lessons and secrets be the key to making Chip’s wishes a reality?

Full of spirit, hope, and a hint of magic, this enchanting debut novel tells the tale of one girl’s struggle with a universal question: How do you stay true to yourself and find a way to belong at the same time? –

Review:

Although this book took awhile to get into, it quickly warmed a place into my heart. It is the story of Chip, who very clearly does not fit in. She is told this repeatedly by her mother, her older sister, her grandmother. Everyone spends their time around Chip telling her she shouldn’t be there. And while the book is painful, it is also real.

Taking place in 1977, Scott takes the reader to the 1970s. With Chip as a narrator the reader comes to see how close Chip was with her father, who died before School of Charm took place and how uncomfortable she is around the rest of her family; which includes her two sisters, her mother and now her grandmother. From the very first scene with her grandmother, we see that Chip and her will never get along. Chip’s grandmother wants Chip to be proper and Chip is a tomboy. Chip enjoys rivers, mud and bugs, something her grandmother does not seem to understand.

Someone who does understand however is Miss Vernie and her School of Charm, a school that Chip locates one day when she needs to take a break from her family. While her family is busy planning for pageants and the future of the family in the south; Chip wants to hang with her turtle and her father’s spirit. What Chip really wants is a sign that her father is there with her. That he’s listening. What Chip finds instead is Miss Vernie and two girls that Chip would have never talked to without the School of Charm. While Chip’s mother and grandmother are not necessarily the best role models out there, this little school is full of role models for Chip, even classmates Dana and Karen.

This book faces a lot of tough topics in a short period of time. Chip has to face racism and discrimination with her friend Dana who happens to be black in the South, in the 70s. Dana wants to compete in the pageant with everyone else in the community has a problem with this, including Chip’s grandmother who is the quintessential old school southern grandma. While I understand the grandmother had to be that way, she was a little too hard core for my taste in this middle grade novel. Yet, this was still an enjoyable novel that I would happily pass along to many.