Izzy Malone isn’t your typical sixth grader. She wears camouflage combat boots and tie dye skirts; the Big Dipper and Orion are her two best friends; and she’d rather climb trees or shoot hoops than talk about boys and makeup. And after only a month of middle school she’s already set the record for the most trips to the Principal’s office.
The only time Izzy feels at peace is when she’s on the open water, and more than anything else, she wants to become a member of the Dandelion Paddlers, her school’s competitive rowing club. But thanks to those multiple trips to the Principal’s office, Izzy’s parents force her to enroll in Mrs. Whippie’s Charm School, a home-study course in manners and etiquette, or they won’t let her race in Dandelion Hollow’s annual pumpkin regatta—where Izzy hopes to prove to the Dandelion Paddlers she is more than qualified to be on their team.
When Mrs. Whippie’s first letter arrives it’s way different from what Izzy was expecting. Tucked inside the letter is a shiny gold bracelet and an envelope charm. Izzy must earn her first charm by writing someone a nice note, and once she does more tasks will be assigned.
Izzy manages to complete some of the tasks—and to her surprise, she actually finds herself enjoying the course. But when one of her attempts at doing something good is misinterpreted, she fears her chances at passing the course—and becoming a Paddler—are slipping away. With some unexpected friends there to support her, can Izzy manage to earn her charms and stay true to herself?
“Izzy’s frank, vulnerable, sassy first-person narration reveals her surprising journey from a solitary girl talking to the stars to a girl with friends to light her way…This story of an atypical girl, her family, and friends, laced with middle school drama, is indeed a charming one.” –Kirkus Reviews
“A heartwarming coming-of-age journey…Lundquist deftly portrays the pain of being odd girl out, both at school and at home.” –Publisher’s Weekly
I stared at my own bracelet; at the tiny jukebox, paint palette, cupcake, envelope and treasure box, and wondered what my story would look like, if I kept adding to it, charm by charm. When I was as old as Aunt Mildred, would I care that some rotten kids at school used to call me Toad Girl? I bet I wouldn’t—but maybe one day I’d buy myself a tiny toad charm, because I wouldn’t want to forget it, either. Maybe I’d even buy a star charm, to remind myself that once upon a time I was the Star Bandit, and for a short time, the whole town was talking about me.
Aunt Mildred held out her bracelet. “This is the most valuable thing I own. It represents the life I’ve lived these last forty years. But it’s too heavy for my wrist now; I haven’t put any charms on it in a long time. I suppose I’m too old for adventures, and since I don’t have any children of my own, well…I’d like you to have it. I’d planned to give it to you after your last task, but I guess now is as good a time as any.”
I looked at the bracelet, all golden and colorful; it was making a musical, tinkling sound as the charms clinked together in Aunt Mildred’s trembling hands.
But if the bracelet was the story of her life, it seemed wrong for me to take it. After all, her story wasn’t over yet. Aunt Mildred was still alive.
Author Jenny Lundquist
Jenny Lundquist was born and raised in Huntington Beach, CA, where she spent her time unsuccessfully learning how to surf. When she was younger, she wanted to be either a rock star or a published author. After she taped herself singing and listened to it on playback she decided she’d better opt for the writing route. Jenny is the author of Seeing Cinderella and Plastic Polly as well as the young adult titles The Princess in the Opal Mask and The Opal Crown.
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