I totally was drawn in to read this book by the cover – isn’t it just charming? It looks so cozy and magical! Lisa-Ann Scott has written a charming middle-grade tale of personal growth.
It’s 1977 and Chip (aka Brenda) has just moved to South Carolina with her Mama and two sisters, Charlene and Ruthie. They’re all moving in with their Grandma, after Chip’s daddy died in an accident. Chip has always been a tomboy – someone who loves climbing trees, catching fish, and walking in the woods. She was daddy’s girl, and misses him tremendously. Things seem different in the South, as Mama and Chip’s sisters are caught up in preparing for a Beauty Pageant. Chip doesn’t quite fit in – for one, she looks like her Daddy with his blonde hair and strong legs. For another, she hates dresses and dolls and doesn’t have a talent. But once she discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm, Chip decides that entering the pageant might be the key to fitting in and fixing her heart.
- that Miss Vernie’s best advice is to be true to yourself, and that this also means discovering yourself.
- that the other participants of Miss Vernie’s School of Charm are good reflections of other struggles (like Karen’s struggle with her weight, and Dana’s struggle to be proud of herself).
- that the characters have depth and background – they are rounded. Even Grandma, who at first seems all prickles and sour faces.
- that the book promotes paying attention – and learning from the lessons life hands us!
This is a sweet story, and I totally felt for Chip and her struggles to find a place in her family and to reconcile the “new Brenda” with the “old Chip”. I loved that the story was wrapped up with some follow-up, and that nothing was black and white. I was the teensiest bit disappointed it wasn’t a school of magic (the word “charm” sure had my hopes up) – but in a way, I liked the way it revealed the magic of believing in yourself!
I would totally recommend this – even though it’s for younger audiences. 5/5