School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott
Posted by Caitie F on February 13, 2014
Summary from pub:
Eleven-year-old Chip has always been her daddy’s girl, so when he dies she pins her hopes on winning a beauty pageant to show her family of southern belles that she still belongs. But she’d rather be covered in mud than makeup! Can a rough-and-tumble girl ever become a beauty queen? A universal story about finding your place in the world, School of Charm explores themes of loss, family, and friendship.
This was a stunningly beautiful novel about loss, finding your way, and being yourself. It is the perfect middle grade book for anyone who feels like they don’t belong.
My favorite thing about this book was the main character. Chip is not like her sisters, mother, and especially her grandma, at least on the surface. She likes mud and nature, not beauty and pageants. A fact that her oldest sister and grandma are quite nasty about. She tries to be like them at times, but thanks to the charm school, she learns a lot about herself and her family. She also never gets over the loss of her father. It is on her mind and impacts everything she does, which actually makes sense. So many times it seems like there is something that is a huge impact on a character and it just goes away. It is done in a way that feels natural and I think can really help kids that are dealing with loss.
The secondary characters in this book are mostly very well developed. Dana’s struggle with racism in the small Southern town and Karen felt like she wasn’t good enough, but they were not handled in a stereotypical or cliched way. I felt like it was a fresh look at these issues. It also worked because it was a historical setting, yet the girls still felt relatable to girls today. They were strong, yet vulnerable.
At times it was difficult to read what the grandma said. She was not very nice to Chip, was racist, and didn’t often have anything nice to say about anyone. As I learned about her backstory, i got it a little, but it also showed how people can be hardened and that nothing will change overnight.
This is a wonderful coming of age story that will charm middle grade readers.