I met Jenny Lundquist at a few local events, and I immediately fell in love with Izzy Malone and her scrappy personality and spunk. This is a great book for any middle grader.

Izzy Malone isn’t your typical middle schooler. She wears camouflage combat boots, the stars are her only friends, and after a month she’s set a new record for the most trips to her principal’s office.

But Izzy’s life isn’t so charming these days. The kids at school think she’s a mouthy misfit, her musical prodigy sister gets all the attention at home, and no one takes Izzy’s determination to compete in her small town’s Great Pumpkin Race seriously.

When Izzy’s antics land her in hot water, her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School. At first Izzy thinks it sounds stupid—her manners are just fine, thanks—but Mrs. Whippie’s first assignment proves intriguing. Tucked inside a letter is a shiny charm bracelet and instructions telling her she will “Earn Her Charm” by performing a series of tasks. For each task Izzy completes, she’ll receive a charm to place on her bracelet. “Complete them all,” the letter says, “and you will have earned a prize unlike any other.”

Soon Izzy’s adding charms to her bracelet. But when a task goes seriously awry and threatens to derail her mother’s budding political career, Izzy has her hands full proving she’s not an emerging juvenile delinquent. Add in some middle school mean girls, a giant pumpkin that could be the answer to all her problems, and discovering she might have a crush on the boy she accidentally punched in the face, and Izzy may just pull it all together and Earn Her Charm. And she’s about to find out the best kind of friends are just like stars: Bright and beautiful, appearing just when you need them, to shine a little bit of light on a dark night.

What is the most exciting thing going on in your life right now?
Hmm…I just finished working on our taxes, does that count? Just kidding! I would say the most exciting thing in my life right now is that I’m finally working on a middle grade book I’ve wanted to write for years. It’s too early to say whether it will actually ever be published or not, but it just feels good to plot out/write scenes for a book that’s been in my head for years. Outside of my writing life, my sons are turning 11 and 14 this year. Having a house with teens and tweens means every day is a new adventure!

Especially with that new dog you told me about! I love how unique Izzy is, especially her “Camohemian” look. How did Izzy come
to you, and what do you want readers to take away from her story?

Izzy came to me in bits and pieces. When I first started writing this book, about a girl who was sent to charm school, my main character was actually named Evie, and she was very reserved, slightly quirky, and pretty shy. The book wasn’t working at all, though, and I finally realized it was because Evie as a character didn’t match the story. I needed a main character who was loud and sassy and spunky, and slowly, after that realization, I re-wrote the book and developed Izzy’s character. I think the main thing I’d like my readers to take away is that it’s okay to be who you are. You are unique and special just as you are.

Yes indeed! I also love the premise of your book SEEING CINDERELLA. Where did the “magic glasses” come from?
That idea actually came from something that happened when I was in middle school. One day at lunch one of the popular, cute boys approached me. I was certain he had (finally!!!) recognized my inner awesomeness, and was going to say something nice to me. Instead, he licked two of his fingers, reached out…and slid them down the lenses of my glasses. I was in shock. The world seemed blurry—literally, because his spit had settled onto my lenses and I couldn’t see out of them anymore. Then he just kept walking; he never said a word to me.  It was the single most mortifying thing that happened to me in middle school. When I recounted the incident years later at a party, I found myself saying something like, “I guess my glasses had magic powers—they repelled boys!” Then the writer in me thought…Wait, but what if my glasses really did have magic powers? Like…what if they could read people’s thoughts? I developed the idea that became the book Seeing Cinderella from there.

Ugh, that boy sounds awful, but I’m glad you found a way to turn that drab experience into magic! The second installment in Izzy’s story is supposed to come out this coming December. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet?

I can, actually! The book has been moved up, so it will be coming out in September now. It’s titled: The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby. It’s set in the same small town as Izzy’s story, with the same characters, but told from her friend Violet’s perspective. Violet is still grieving the death of her mother, especially now that her dad has just gotten remarried. Right as the holidays are approaching, Violet finds a letter that her mother wrote to her right before she died, including a Christmas Wish List—things her mother wanted Violet to do to enjoy the holidays again. Violet would like to ignore the holidays, but she wants to honor her mother’s wishes, so she enlists the help of The Charm Girls—her friends in her charm club, to help her accomplish everything on the list before Christmas.