Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell

Crickett Rumley
For ages 14 and up
Egmont USA, 2011   ISBN: 978-1606841310

Jane has been expelled from her thirteenth boarding school and this time, instead of sending her to another elite educational establishment, her father has agreed to send Jane to live with her grandmother in Bienville, Alabama. Jane used to live in this town, but so much has happened to her since she left five years ago that she is not sure if she will be able to fit into the very close-knit and small town society there. Furthermore, she is not at all sure that she wants to.

Unfortunately, Jane’s grandmother is determined to do all she can to help Jane become a “decent young lady,” instead of an outspoken and troublesome “anti-belle.” Which is why Jane finds herself entered in the Magnolia Maid Pageant. She has no interest in being an ambassadress for Bienville, but somehow she gets selected to be one of the Maids, whether she wants the position or not. For some reason, the judges this year are determined to create a Magnolia Maid Court that reflects Bienville’s diverse and twenty-first century society. Though the judges did choose two girls who are from highbrow families with pedigrees as long as your arm - which is the norm for this event - they also chose Jane (with her dark past), Caroline (a girl who is rather plump) Zara (an African-America girl,) and  Brandi, a girl who is definitely from the wrong side of the tracks.

At first all Jane wants to do is to get out of being a Magnolia Maid, but when the snobbiest Maid makes a fuss and picks on everyone, Jane decides that she has to stand her ground. She has to stick to her guns and follow through, even if it means that she has to wear a horrible pastel colored antebellum dress. Somehow, maybe, if she manages to be a Magnolia Maid she might find a way to connect with her dead mother, who was a Magnolia Maid too.

As the days go by, Jane realizes that being a Maid is really important to the other girls. For one it represents a dream that she has coveted since she was five, for another being a Maid signifies that she and her family have been accepted by the local society people. For Brandi, being a Magnolia Maid is the first step to building a better life for herself. Jane has to do what she can to help these girls get what is rightfully theirs, and perhaps in the process she can figure out who she is and make some real friends who will accept her.

This is an incredibly funny, poignant, and powerful story, one that will make readers laugh out loud one minute and reach for a Kleenex in the next. Jane is a delightfully irreverent character who discovers that sometimes something incredibly good can grow out of something that seems incredibly bad.