I'm thrilled to have the lovely Jenny Lundquist here to chat about her upcoming middle-grade book, The Charming Life of Izzy Malone! Read my review, the interview, and enter the giveaway below...
The Charming Life of Izzy Malone
by Jenny Lundquist
Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X
Source: ARC from author for review purposes
Izzy Malone isn’t your typical middle schooler. She wears camouflage combat boots, the stars are her only friends, and after a month she’s set a new record for the most trips to her principal’s office.
But Izzy’s life isn’t so charming these days. The kids at school think she’s a mouthy misfit, her musical prodigy sister gets all the attention at home, and no one takes Izzy’s determination to compete in her small town’s Great Pumpkin Race seriously.
When Izzy’s antics land her in hot water, her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School. At first Izzy thinks it sounds stupid—her manners are just fine, thanks—but Mrs. Whippie’s first assignment proves intriguing. Tucked inside a letter is a shiny charm bracelet and instructions telling her she will “Earn Her Charm” by performing a series of tasks. For each task Izzy completes, she’ll receive a charm to place on her bracelet. “Complete them all,” the letter says, “and you will have earned a prize unlike any other.”
Soon Izzy’s adding charms to her bracelet. But when a task goes seriously awry and threatens to derail her mother’s budding political career, Izzy has her hands full proving she’s not an emerging juvenile delinquent. Add in some middle school mean girls, a giant pumpkin that could be the answer to all her problems, and discovering she might have a crush on the boy she accidentally punched in the face, and Izzy may just pull it all together and Earn Her Charm. And she’s about to find out the best kind of friends are just like stars: Bright and beautiful, appearing just when you need them, to shine a little bit of light on a dark night.
Izzy Malone just started middle-school and it isn’t going so well. Her big mouth has landed her in the principle’s office too many times and her unique clothes, unusual hobbies, and general “I don’t care” attitude, hasn’t made her any new friends. Izzy feels like she just doesn’t fit, not with the kids at her school and not with her musical prodigy big sister, running-for-mayor mother, or police chief father. Izzy’s behavior has prompted her parents to enroll her in a home-study charm school. Izzy receives letters from Mrs. Whippie, the charm school teacher, along with a new charm and task to earn it per letter. Izzy soon learns that earning the charms won’t be as easy as she hopes, but with the help of some possibly new friends, Izzy learns that each charm comes with so much more than she expected.
Jenny Lunquist’s The Charming Life of Izzy Malone is most certainly charming! Lundquist has spun an engaging and fun middle-grade read bursting with humor and heart and explores subjects like family, friendship, and fitting in, with depth and a pitch-perfect voice. The middle-school world in The Charming Life of Izzy Malone feels achingly and hilariously authentic. From dreaded teachers to mean girls, annoying assignments, and first crushes, this is a world readers will get and relate to. The Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School is a creative and captivating story idea that young readers will love and reading about Izzy’s sometimes wacky and awry attempts to earn her charms is just too much fun!
Izzy Malone is a lovable heroine with a spunky attitude and charming wit. Readers will admire her fearless ability to be herself, while appreciating her vulnerability. Izzy is surrounded by a superb group of girlfriends with their own unique and special personalities. I love the wonderful female relationships (friendships, sisters, mother/daughter) Ludquist creates and explores in this book.
My final thoughts: Like Izzy herself, The Charming Life of Izzy Malone is sweet and sassy and heartfelt and humorous, and sure to spark many thoughtful discussions about self-esteem, bullying, and embracing one’s uniqueness.
Q1. What three words best describe your book, The Charming Life of Izzy Malone?
I would say humorous, heartfelt, and of course, charming!
Q2. Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give The Charming Life of Izzy Malone a try?
The Charming Life of Izzy Malone is about a mouthy middle school misfit who, through joining a special charm bracelet club (and racing a giant pumpkin!) discovers the best friends of her life.
There! How was that?
Q3. Grab a copy of The Charming Life of Izzy Malone and answer the following:
My favorite is chapter 34 which is titled The Great Pumpkin Regatta. I had so much fun writing Izzy’s racing scene, probably because I’d like to race a giant pumpkin myself one day.
My favorite page is actually page 1 because the opening sentences are: The bracelet and the first charm appeared the day I punched Austin Jackson in the nose. I didn’t mean to slug him. His face just got in my way….Izzy is my fifth book, and these are by far my favorite opening lines that I’ve ever written.
The book is set in a small fictional northern California town called Dandelion Hollow, and while there are a ton of places that I love, I think my favorite is The Kaleidoscope Café, where Izzy sometimes hangs out, the menu is certain to change, and you can always count on running into someone you know.
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
I flipped to page 187, and my favorite lines from it are: There are plenty worse things in this world than not fitting in—like fitting in way too much. You strike me as a real original, Izzy Malone, in a world that loves carbon copies.
Q4. What inspired The Charming Life of Izzy Malone? How did the story come to be?
The book was inspired partly by when I attended a giant pumpkin race a couple years ago. It was also inspired by my love for charm bracelets. I was sitting in a coffee shop one day, reflecting about how we use charm bracelets to tell the story of our life. But then it struck me, what if I wrote about a misfit middle schooler who used a charm bracelet to build the story of her life. I married the two ideas together into a manuscript that eventually became The Charming Life of Izzy Malone.
Q5. Can you tell us a bit about your character, Izzy? What makes her unique and what do you love about her?
I love Izzy so much; I love her spunk. I think she’s a unique blend of spunky toughness and hidden vulnerability, with a mouth that, unfortunately, often gets her into trouble.
Q6. In The Charming Life of Izzy Malone, Izzy works to earn charms for her bracelet...what three charms, that reflect you/your life, would you want for your charm bracelet?
I think if I could pick three, I’d get the letters R, N, and T. They represent the first names of my husband and two sons. If I was using a charm bracelet to tell the story of my life, it would be incomplete without the three of them, because I am blessed to have them in my life.
Q7. What is the BEST thing about being a children’s author?
The best thing in the world is getting to know other authors! As a raging bookworm, it can’t be beat!
Q8. What projects are you working on now and what should we readers expect from you in the future?
Currently, I’m actually working on edits for the sequel to The Charming Life of Izzy Malone. It’s titled, The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby, and will be releasing in the fall of 2017. It has been so exciting diving back into the town of Dandelion Hollow and spending more time with Izzy, Violet and their friends and family.
Q9. Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at…procrastinating!
I’m really embarrassed to admit…that I am deathly scared of bees. Seriously, if I was swarmed, I might potentially throw my kids in front of me as a shield.
The last great book I read was…The Trespasser, by Tana French. I love her mystery series.
Q10. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Charming Life of Izzy Malone, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
I think I would somehow concoct a pumpkin butterscotch cupcake and call it Pumpkin Scotch Cupcakes. On a different note: Does anyone have a good ButterBeer Cupcake recipe? My Harry Potter obsessed boys want one.
Thanks so much for having me!
It was a pleasure chatting with you, Jenny!
Jenny Lundquist grew up in Huntington Beach, California, wearing glasses and wishing they had magic powers. They didn't, but they did help her earn a degree in intercultural studies at Biola University. Jenny has painted an orphanage in Mexico, taught English at a university in Russia, and hopes one day to write a book at a café in Paris. Jenny and her husband live in northern California with their two sons and Rambo, the world's whiniest cat.
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