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Monday, March 3, 2014

(MMGM) Lisa Ann Scott, author of School of Charm {Review & Interview}

I'm so excited to share my review of the charming School of Charm with y'all today AND to have author Lisa Ann Scott stopping by...

School of Charm
by Lisa Ann Scott
Katherine Tegen Books

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?

I went into Lisa Ann Scott’s School of Charm expecting a simple, cutesy middle-grade story, but was pleasantly surprised by this story’s depth, heart, and captivating exploration of grief, love, and acceptance. Heartfelt and hopeful, fun and exciting, School of Charm is an enchanting story.

Chip has always been a daddy’s girl and tomboy, choosing to explore the outdoors and climb trees over makeup and clothes. But when her daddy dies, Chip, her two sisters, and her mother move to NC to live with her mom’s strict mother. Both her grandmother and mother are former beauty queens, and, once in NC, both Chip’s older sister and younger sister decide to compete in the local pageant. Being told and believing that she is not a “pageant girl”, Chip wants nothing to do with that beauty queen world, but wants desperately to belong in her own family. Then she discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm and with the help of some new friends, hard work, and maybe a little magic, Chip might find what she most needs.

School of Charm is such an endearing book with a wonderful message! Author, Lisa Ann Scott, infuses her charming story with a powerful exploration of grief, racism, and self-acceptance, with a big dose of humor, heart, and Southern charm.

The emotions in this book (grief, pain, longing, self-doubt, jealousy) are so palpably felt that I almost felt like I was experiencing everything with Chip. This story take place in 1977 and Scott shines a light on the racism and discrimination that was still rampant in the world, especially the south, at this time. Although Scott touches on some heavy and important issues in School of Charm, the book is also drenched in whimsy, fun, and humor.

I loved the time Chip, and we the reader, spend at Miss Vernie’s School of Charm! Although in the story it’s a very real place, it feels like something out of a fairytale: magical, whimsical, extraordinary. Miss Vernie’s is a place of love, acceptance, and growth, and Miss Vernie herself is such a special, one-of-a-kind person and friend. Chip and her charm school companions grow so much at Miss Vernie’s and learn invaluable, profound things. The message of staying true to yourself shines brightly throughout this book, which I just loved.

Scott has created some memorable characters in School of Charm, from endearing Chip, courageous Dana, Chip’s sweet little sister, and of course, the wonderful Miss Vernie. I really enjoyed all the characters, but I must admit that Chip’s  Grandma is a little too harsh for my liking.

My Final Thoughts: Chip’s story is a heartwarming, magical, and beautiful one that surprised and captivated me in many ways.


What three words best describe School of Charm?

Wonder, hope, heart

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give School of Charm a try?

If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t belong or suspected real life magic is all around us, bury your nose in this book now.

Grab a copy of School of Charm and answer the following:

favorite chapter? I love chapter 7 when the mucky pond helps the girls make some important discoveries about themselves.

favorite page?  I love what happens on page 273 (carried over to 274)

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser?  

Oooh, good one.  Page 190.  Chip goes into the off-limits room and learns a few things about her grandmother.

What inspired School of Charm? How did the story come to be?

I had a dream about a lovely older woman holding class with three girls in a woodland setting.  She had a knowing look on her face, and I couldn’t stop thinking about why the girls were they and what they were learning.

There are some memorable characters in School of Charm, do you have a favorite? What do you love about him/her? Did any of your characters end up surprising even you with the way they turned out?

It’s a tough call between Chip and Miss Vernie, but I’m going to say Chip.  I admire her individuality, her strength, her love of nature.  In the end, she surprised me by working harder to repair the relationship with Grandma than Grandma did.  Family is important to Chip.

If you were competing in a beauty pageant, what would your super special talent be?

I can touch my nose with my tongue, but people in back of the crowd probably couldn’t see that.  So I’d probably bring a bunch of flowers on stage from my garden and explain that even though I can’t keep an indoor plant alive to save my life, I seem to have a knack for creating beautiful gardens outside.

As a middle-grade author, why do you think middle-grade is so important? What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade?

I think middle grade is the age when kids can get hooked on books for life, and a life filled with books is more meaningful and rich. Books shape a person and give you new perspectives on the world, new insights into yourself.  I love writing middle grade because it’s such a confusing, wonderful, transformational age. You want to be a grownup one day, and the next day you’re relieved you’re still a kid. Even now, I can trace that feeling inside me and poke that tender, confused spot.

What is your all time favorite middle-grade book, middle-grade hero, and middle-grade heroine?

So tough to pick! I loved Because of Winn Dixie.  Bud in Bud, Not Buddy is a favorite hero.  Hermione from Harry Potter is everything I love in a heroine.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at making up new words to songs on the fly.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I eat the cookies out of the cookies ‘n cream ice cream.

The last great book I read was the ARC for Tracy Holzcer’s The Secret Hum of a Daisy.  (She’s a fellow class of 2k14 member!)

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by School of Charm, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

It would have four pale yellow sugared fondant petals on top like a dogwood blossom, with an orange marmalade filling—and a tiny fondant turtle on top.  You’d enjoy a nice creamy sweetness and a tinge of bitter from the orange rind in the marmalade.  It’d be a wonderful taste you’d sit and savor long after finishing the cupcake. Oh, and you’d take the turtle off and never eat it so you can add it to your Coolest Thing Ever collection. Let’s call it The Chip. Sign me up for Cupcake Wars (once I learn how to sculpt fondant.)

Thank you so much, Lisa, for stopping by and telling us a lot about you and your sweet book! Everyone needs to run out and a copy of this wonderful book!


Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...

This sounds like such a wonderful book! I'm in love with the cover as well.

Lisa Scott said...

Thanks so much for featuring my book and for the great review.You got exactly what I was hoping readers would get from the story. (And earlier drafts featured an even meaner grandma!)

Brenda said...

Loved the review and interview, especially the part about "heartfelt and hopeful."

Unknown said...

This is a book I'd like to read to my children. I want them to understand they are both beautiful just the way they are. And what a lovely cupcake!

Tracy Holczer said...

Yay, Lisa! Can't wait to dig in to School of Charm (it is beckoning from my bookshelf). And I want to eat that cupcake right now :)

Kirsten! said...

This book looks adorable. The synopsis is adorable, the cover is adorable, and I'm afraid it's luring me into a false sense of security and I'll end up bawling all over the place when I read it. I'm gonna do it anyway :P

Charlotte said...

This one sounds lovely--right up my alley--and the cupcake sounds lovely too!

Jill the OWL said...

I really want to read this one. From your description and review it almost sounds like Anne Ursu's book Breadcrumbs!

Jillyn said...

This book sounds so cute, and the cover is just darling!

Orchid said...

This sounds like such a great read. I hadn't heard of it till today, but am definitely going to keep it in mind for future reading.