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The Charming Life of Izzy Malone

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone

5.0 1
by Jenny Lundquist

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Izzy Malone, a spunky girl who wants to be part of an elite rowing club, must first attend a very unique charm school in this first novel of a brand-new duology.

Izzy Malone isn’t your typical sixth grader. The stars are her only friends, and after only a month of middle school she’s already set the record for the most trips to the Principal’s


Izzy Malone, a spunky girl who wants to be part of an elite rowing club, must first attend a very unique charm school in this first novel of a brand-new duology.

Izzy Malone isn’t your typical sixth grader. The stars are her only friends, 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 place 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. When Izzy’s antics land her in hot water, her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie’s Charm School.

Izzy receives a letter, a shiny gold bracelet, and instructions telling her how she will “earn her charm.” Izzy must earn her first charm and actual charms—by performing a series of tasks and good deeds.

After completin some of the tasks—to Izzy’s 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?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The start of sixth grade has been tough for “class outcast” Izzy, the only girl at her school who isn’t interested in clothes and boys. What does interest outspoken, independent Izzy—a competitive rowing club—is controlled by a group of popular girls, and Izzy’s attempts to fit in with them fail. Her school nickname, Toad Girl, doesn’t help, nor does her temper or the fact that her mother is running for mayor of Dandelion Hollow. After Izzy’s parents enroll her in a charm school, Izzy must complete a series of tasks to earn charms for her bracelet. However, Izzy’s good intentions, such as secretly attempting to weed a neighbor’s garden, go badly awry. Lundquist (Plastic Polly) effectively builds tension as each task makes Izzy’s life messier, but the friends Izzy meets and things she learns add up to a heartwarming coming-of-age journey. The cozy California town of Dandelion Hollow is populated with a lively cast of secondary characters, and Lundquist deftly portrays the pain of being odd girl out, both at school and at home. Ages 8–12. Agent: Kerry Sparks, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (Nov.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Izzy feels like a sore thumb in a room full of pinkies. She's a spirited girl who wants to be a part of the competitive after-school rowing team, the Dandelion Paddlers, but is best known as "Toad Girl" by her classmates. She describes herself as the "kid in class that everyone secretly (and not-so-secretly) thinks is weird." She lives with her older sister (a musical prodigy who gets more than her fair share of attention), her mom (who is running for mayor), her father (who is the town's police chief), her grandma, and her great-aunt. Her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie's Earn Your Charm School, where she learns about manners while being prompted to do her best and is rewarded with charms for a bracelet. This contemporary realistic novel is told in the first person, and readers will root for Izzy. VERDICT A well-executed and fun school romp. Hand this to middle grade readers looking for light and entertaining fare.—Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego
Kirkus Review
Aug. 30, 2016
When her parents enroll her in a charm school, a nonconforming middle schooler finds her life transformed. By the time Izzy starts sixth grade, her “slide into loserdom” is firmly established. Izzy’s perfect older sister’s a musical prodigy, and her mother’s so busy running for mayor of Dandelion Hollow she has no time for her outspoken younger daughter, whose “mouth often has a mind of its own.” Sporting weird combat boots and vintage clothing, friendless Izzy pretends she doesn’t care classmates call her Toad Girl, but her pariah status keeps her from a yearned-for place on the school rowing team. Desperate, Izzy’s parents enroll her in a home-study charm school. For each task Izzy completes, she earns a charm for her bracelet. Izzy’s first assignment rekindles an old friendship, but the second ends badly when she accidentally damages her mother’s campaign materials. After well-intentioned efforts to complete the third task result in accusations of vandalism, Izzy knows the final assignment will be her only chance to make amends. 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. Izzy is depicted on the cover as a blonde, white girl, and her small Northern California town is not a notably diverse one. This story of an atypical girl, her family, and friends, laced with middle school drama, is indeed a charming one. (Fiction. 8-12)
Children's Literature - Tina Chan
Students at Dandelion Middle School think sixth grader Izzy Malone is weird. She has no friends, and her parents and teachers think she is a trouble maker. Since the fourth grade, Izzy’s nickname is Toad Girl after she put a toad in a girl’s sleeping bag at a slumber party. She desperately wants to join the Dandelion Paddlers, the rowing club. When making trouble lands her in hot water, Izzy’s mother enrolls her in Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School. Mrs. Whippie mails Izzy a letter with instructions to complete an anonymous task, a charm bracelet, and a charm to place on the bracelet after completing the task. If Izzy completes all the tasks, she will receive a prize. However, the tasks backfire, which earns her the nickname Star Bandit. Since the tasks are anonymous, no one knows who the Star Bandit is except for Izzy and the friends she makes along the way. Humorous, heartwarming, and delightful, this story teaches readers the value of family and friends, and to be kind to people who may not be to you. Reviewer: Tina Chan; Ages 8 to 12.

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone



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. It was a bruising end to a disastrous first month in middle school.

You know that kid in class that everyone secretly (and not-so-secretly) thinks is weird? The one people laugh and point at behind their back, the one who gets picked last in gym class, the one you wish you hadn’t gotten stuck with for a science partner?

At Dandelion Middle School, that kid is me, Izzy “Don’t Call Me Isabella” Malone.

Truthfully, my slide into loserdom started in elementary school and was pretty much an established fact by the time sixth grade started last month. It’s partly because my mouth often has a mind of its own. But I think it’s also because there are a bazillion other things I’d rather do than talk about boys, clothes, and makeup, and I refuse to wear strappy sandals and short skirts.

(If you ever catch me wearing strappy sandals or a short skirt, you have my permission to kick my butt.)

I do like skirts, though. Really long, colorful ones I get from Dandelion Thrift. I like to wear them with my camouflage combat boots.

I call the look Camohemian.

“I don’t understand how it could be locked,” Ms. Harmer, my English teacher said, tugging on the door of our classroom. “Fifteen minutes ago it was open.”

“Does this mean class is cancelled?” I asked. Our class was held in an outdoor portable. The day was chilly but sunny, and being stuck indoors writing another round of horrible haikus was the last thing I wanted to do.

“No, Isabella—”

“Izzy,” I said.

“—that is definitely not what that means. Everyone wait here while I go to the teacher’s lounge to look for my keys. Lauren, you’re in charge while I’m gone.”

Lauren Wilcox smiled, all angelic-like. “I will.” After Ms. Harmer left, Lauren’s smile pulled back, like a beast baring its fangs. “You heard her. I’m in charge.”

Students clumped off into their cliques. Being the class outcast, I am thoroughly cliqueless, and normally I’d sit by myself. But today I was planning to change all that.

Lauren and her friends claimed a grassy patch of sunlight—kicking out a couple other girls who’d gotten there first. I stared at them and squared my shoulders, preparing myself to do some major strappy-sandal smooching up. Lauren and her crew are the sixth-grade members of the Dandelion Paddlers, a competitive after-school rowing club. Lauren’s family owns the aquatic center on Dandelion Lake, and you need to get in good with Lauren if you want to be a Paddler.

I learned that the hard way last summer during Paddler tryouts. I thought the fact that I was a great rower would be enough. There were four open spots, and they all went to Lauren’s friends—even though I came in fourth during the timed heats. The last spot went to Stella Franklin, who had somehow managed to become BFFs with Lauren over the summer. I’m guessing the fact that Stella can kiss butt faster than a frog can catch flies has something to do with it.

But I wasn’t about to give up. Being on the Paddlers is a big deal in Dandelion Hollow; when my dad was my age he was on the boys’ team. He’s taken me rowing for years, and we trained for tryouts all summer. Dandelion Lake is my favorite place in the world. I love being on the open water, where the only thing I feel is the wind in my hair, and words like “odd” and “strange” blow away like dead leaves on a blustery autumn day.

Lauren’s locker is right next to mine, and this morning I took an extra-long time loading up my backpack so I could listen while she told her friends they were one Paddler short since Emily Harris moved away last week. I figured now was my chance.

“Hi,” I said, plunking down next to Lauren. “It’s weird Ms. Harmer can’t find her keys, right?” I took the headphones from my iPod out of my skirt pocket and twirled them around, like I was bored and just making conversation.

Lauren blinked at me like I was a species she didn’t recognize.

“Um, excuse me,” Stella Franklin said. “What makes you think you can just sit here?”

It’s a free country, is what I wanted to say. “I want to join you” is what I blurted instead.

“You want to join us?” said another of Lauren’s friends. A husky blond girl who was wearing a chunky red headband over her ponytail.

“I mean, I want to join the Paddlers.” I looked at Lauren. “I know you have an open spot, and last summer at tryouts I finished ahead of her.” I jabbed my finger at Stella, who swelled up like a puffer fish.

“You did not! We tied.”

“Nope,” I said, twirling my headphones. “I beat you by three-tenths of a second.”

Lauren leaned back and looked me up and down. I sat up straight, trying to appear taller. I’m pretty short, but what I lack in size I make up for in won’t-quit-till-I-die persistence.

“I only have winners on my team,” she said.

“I’m a winner,” I said. Only my voice squeaked a little, and “winner” came out “wiener.”

“Did you just call yourself a wiener?” Headband Girl asked.

Everyone laughed, and I counted silently to ten, because my patience was all puckered out.

“I think if you saw me paddle again,” I said, crossing my legs, “then you’d realize I’m much better than—”

“What are those?” Stella interrupted, poking at my combat boots. “Those are the ugliest things I’ve ever seen. Don’t you know boys don’t like to get up close and personal with girls who wear boots like that?” She poked me again.

“You keep running your mouth,” I snapped, smacking her hand away, “and these boots will get up close and personal with your face.”

Darn it! The mouth strikes again!

Lauren directed her gaze to Headband Girl, who seemed to take it as a silent command. She snatched away my headphones and flung them in the air. They circled once in the breeze before landing on an overhanging branch of a nearby tree. Then, one by one, Lauren, Stella, Headband, and the rest of them stood up and left in a line of ponytail-swinging nastiness, leaving me sitting alone, while the rest of the class watched me, waiting to see what I would do.

Yeah, stuff like this is pretty much why I think middle school stinks.

Let’s just pause for a moment to consider my options. I could:

a. cry, which would only convince them I didn’t belong on their team.

b. kick Headband’s butt into the next county. (Or try to, anyway. It’s hard to appear threatening to someone who has biceps the size of Nebraska.)

c. get my headphones back.

Here’s the key to surviving as a middle school outcast: Pretend you don’t care. Pretend you have such great self-esteem that everything just rolls off your back. Most important:

Don’t show weakness. Ever.

I chose option C. I have a thing for trees, and I’d wanted to climb this particular one for a while. I eat lunch under it every day, on account of the fact that the cafeteria usually smells like burnt burritos.

Plus, it’s not like I have anyone to eat with, anyway.

I stood up and stretched. A skip, a hop, and a shimmy later, I was scrambling up the trunk.

“Go, Izzy!” shouted Austin Jackson, who, at the moment, still had a bruise-free face. A few other kids started cheering; Lauren and the Paddlers were already forgotten.

See what I mean? Pretend you don’t care. Works like a charm.

I braced my hands against the rough trunk. The star-shaped leaves were the color of a fiery peach, and they whispered in the breeze. The air smelled sharp and crisp, like shiny red apples, and I breathed deep, enjoying being a little bit closer to the sky.

“Toad Girl is crazy,” Stella was saying down below. I pretended not to hear. I also pretended I didn’t know that was what most of the kids at Dandelion Middle called me. Stella the Terrible and I went to elementary school together and she gave me the nickname at her fourth-grade slumber party, when I put a toad in her sleeping bag. (I swear, that girl can howl like a werewolf on a full moon.)

I hadn’t meant to do it. I just got bored watching everyone else test out Stella’s lip gloss collection, and I started playing with her brother’s sand toad, Count Croakula. I guess I must have lost him. But Stella swore up and down I’d done it on purpose, so I wasn’t invited to her birthday party last year. I wasn’t invited to a lot of birthday parties last year.

Turns out, most girls would rather put on lip gloss than play with sand toads.

“Come down from there! You’ll get us all in trouble!” Stella was now standing under the tree. Lauren must have dispatched her to keep me in line. “Come on. Ms. Harmer will be back any minute.”

“Leave Izzy to her solitary pursuits,” said Violet Barnaby, who liked to use fancy words. She was sitting off to the side by herself, scribbling in a glittery purple journal. “Ms. Harmer won’t find her keys in the teachers’ lounge.”

“How do you know that?” Stella demanded.

“Because I have them right here.” Violet produced a key ring and jingled it.

The class gave a collective gasp, as Violet was known for being an A student who never got in trouble. I took the opportunity to climb up the branch. Slowly, I inched my way across it, where my headphones dangled in the breeze.

“Hey, Toad Girl!” called Tyler Jones. “Think fast!”

He lobbed an orange at me. It missed by a few feet and Austin said, “Tyler, you moron! Get out from under there. . . . I said, Get Out!”

“Ouch! All right, all right. I’m going!”

I kept inching forward, and stretched my fingers out to get the headphones. From up here I had a good view of several clusters of maple trees, which in late September were all colored in shades of gold and red and orange. A part of me wished I could stay up here forever, away from the middle school mean girls, who circled like sharks below me. I picked a few leaves and stuck them in my pocket, so I could paste them into my leaf collection later.

“What’s going on?” came Ms. Harmer’s voice. “Is someone up there?”

Startled, I lost my balance and fell. I caught myself on the branch and swung—gymnast style—through the air, landing right in front of Ms. Harmer.

“Ta-da!” I said, throwing my hands in the air.

A few kids applauded, but Ms. Harmer’s face turned purple. “Go to the office. Now!”

As I walked away, I heard Stella say, “Excuse me, Ms. Harmer? You should probably send Violet to the office too. After all, she’s the one who stole your keys.”

Meet the Author

Jenny Lundquist is the author of The Charming Life of Izzy Malone, Seeing Cinderella, and Plastic Polly. She grew up in Huntington Beach, California, and earned 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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The Charming Life of Izzy Malone 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LisaA0 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I am a fan of Jenny Lundquist's and have read all of her books so far. My favorite book used to be The Princess in the Opal Mask but this is my new favorite from her. I am going to read this one to my son and daughter and start a charm club with them. I know they will love the charm club idea! It is a perfect idea to do with kids and get them to think of others. I love the story of the friendships being rebuilt, built and challenged in this book too. Very true to life.