School of Charm

School of Charm

4.6 3
by Lisa Ann Scott

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At the School of Charm, everyone has a wish to whisper. With an enchanting small-town setting, lively storytelling, and a hint of magic, this debut novel is perfect for fans of Ingrid Law, Clare Vanderpool, and Rebecca Stead.

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

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At the School of Charm, everyone has a wish to whisper. With an enchanting small-town setting, lively storytelling, and a hint of magic, this debut novel is perfect for fans of Ingrid Law, Clare Vanderpool, and Rebecca Stead.

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.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—After her father's death, Chip, her sisters, and their mother move from New York to North Carolina to live with their grandmother. Chip, a tomboy, enjoys being outside, getting close to nature, and is unafraid of getting dirty. The transition to life in North Carolina is made more difficult by Grandma's expectations, her formal home filled with taxidermy, and an apparent dislike of the protagonist. Grandma, who was crowned Miss North Carolina 1939, would like to continue the beauty pageant tradition, a notion embraced by Chip's sisters. Family relationships are further compounded by an unwillingness to talk about the shared loss of their much-loved father. During one of Chip's outdoor explorations she discovers Miss Vernie's School of Charm. At this unique, almost enchanted charm school, "free to those who need it," the narrator meets two girls, Dana and Karen. Like Chip, they are unhappy but reluctant to share their feelings. Everyone, it seems, has a secret. Told in the first person, Chip's voice is generally authentic, though she grasps adult insights a bit too readily. References to the 1970s provide a pre-Internet era in which the characters develop and grow. Though the conclusion is a bit pat, the process of grieving and change is handled realistically in this satisfying novel.—Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library
Publishers Weekly
Eleven-year-old Brenda “Chip” Anderson has always been a daddy’s girl and a tomboy, and after her father dies, the family moves from New York to small-town North Carolina to live with Chip’s stern grandmother. While Chip’s mother, sisters, and grandmother bond over the upcoming Miss Dogwood beauty pageant, Chip feels more left out than ever (and all the beauty talk doesn’t make her feel any better about the prominent birthmark on her cheek). Then she stumbles upon Miss Vernie’s School of Charm, where the activities revolve around getting one’s hands dirty, not learning the finer points of etiquette. While debut author Scott gets a bit heavy handed in the lessons Chip learns during her unconventional hours with Miss Vernie, Chip’s growth is moving and relatable. The author also makes good use of her 1970s setting, incorporating Elvis’s death and touching on racial tensions (one of Chip’s fellow students at Miss Vernie’s becomes the first black girl to enter the pageant) to give the story a strong sense of place. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Unter, the Unter Agency. (Feb.)
Mary Brown
“Chip reminds me of Jo from Little Women, but the plot has Cinderella tones….Although [Miss Vernie’s] the “fairy godmother”, rather than working all the magic for Chip and Chip being basically helpless, she offers her guidance, and Chip makes her own luck. I can’t wait to sell this book!”
“[School of Charm] deals with universal themes such as emotional isolation, intergenerational conflict, self-knowledge, and grief. Simply written and engaging, the narrative gathers steam as it travels along to its satisfying conclusion.”
Kirkus Reviews
After her father's death, 11-year-old Brenda "Chip" Anderson feels lonely and alienated when she's transplanted from New York to Mt. Airy, N.C. A tomboy and "daddy's girl," Chip loved hanging out in the woods with her father, but now Mama moves the family to Mt. Airy to live with Grandma, who takes an instant dislike to Chip and focuses on entering Chip's two sisters in the Miss Dogwood 1977 beauty pageant. As former pageant winners, Grandma and Mama become obsessed with grooming Chip's sisters for the pageant, leaving her to grieve and adjust on her own. Chip's father always told her she was "perfect just being" herself, but now she's confused. When she discovers Miss Vernie's School of Charm, "free to those who need it," Chip enrolls, hoping to surprise Mama and Grandma by secretly entering the pageant. Miss Vernie assures her students they will be most beautiful if they are themselves, but Chip learns the hard way by trying to become a "brand-new Brenda." The quiet, gentle plot progresses slowly, allowing Chip to heal, form new friendships and assimilate Miss Vernie's unorthodox charm lessons before becoming a "brand-new Chip." Poignant, inspiring debut novel of loss, belonging and being true to yourself. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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File size:
537 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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Meet the Author

Lisa Ann Scott is a former TV news anchor who now enjoys making up stories instead of sticking to the facts. She also works as a voice actor in upstate New York, where she lives with her husband, two kids, dog, cats, and koi fish. This is her first middle grade novel.

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School of Charm 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Charming story, love the characters and the wonderful writing. Everyone should accept their inner is important...Interesting hint of magic sprinkled throughout the plot, although this is not a fantasy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very cute story.  
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott Eleven year old Brenda Anderson, better known as Chip, has just had life as she knew it taken away. She's always been Daddy's girl, enjoying the outdoors with him and her best friend Billy. An accident has changed that, taken her dad from her. Her mom is moving their family from New York to North Carolina, to live with a grandma they don't know. What's worse is when they get there she feels more left out than before. Feeling like she needs to become someone she's not to fit in with her own family. Thank goodness she finds Miss Vernie's School of Charm. This book is aimed at young girls and yet this old girl thoroughly enjoyed it. It takes place in the seventies. Chip learns about being different in her own life and with her new friends. She finds out that becoming someone she's not doesn't always bring acceptance and the importance of just being who she really is. Excellent story.