Saturday, January 10, 2009

Currently Reading... Savvy

Savvy, a middle grade fantasy by Ingrid Law, is the story of almost-thirteen-year-old Mississippi Beaumont (nicknamed Mibs) and her unusual family. When the Beaumont children turn thirteen, they get their "savvy". A savvy--a special talent of power--can be unpredictable and destructive at first; Mibs, like her older brothers, will be homeschooled until she learns to "scumble" her savvy. Mibs is looking forward to her birthday with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. She can hardly wait to find out what her savvy will be!

Just before Mibs' birthday, her beloved Poppa, the only one in the family without a savvy, is in a terrible car accident. He's lying in a coma in a hospital in another town, and he may not pull through. Momma and Rocket, Mibs' electrically-gifted older brother, go to Salina to be with him, leaving the younger children home with Grandpa.
On Mibs' birthday morning, two moderately strange things happen. Mibs' hard-to-wake youngest sister, Gypsy, wakes up when Mibs gets out of bed. Then their pet turtle suddenly wakes from its long hibernation. Mibs decides that her savvy is to wake sleeping things up--and she decides she must get to Salina right away to wake Poppa.

The rest of the story recounts the adventures of Mibs; her brothers Fish and Samson; her young admirer, Will; and Bobbi, a rebellious preacher's daughter, when they run away from Mibs' disastrous birthday party and stow away on a bus driven by a bible salesman. They are soon joined by a punctuality-challenged but kind-hearted waitress named Lill.

I love character-driven stories like this one. The people we meet in the pages of Savvy are flawed, eccentric, and quite likeable. Warm relationships grow as the motley crew tries to deal with the consequences of Mibs' impulsive act. Over the course of the misadventure, all of the characters grow. Mibs begins to understand the danger of letting the critical voices of others get stuck inside your head; Fish gains control over his water savvy; and the bus driver finds the confidence to stand up for the people he cares about--and to let love into his life.

Reading Savvy right after How to Ditch Your Fairy (scroll down for review) was interesting, since both stories involve young teens with quirky, supernatural powers--though the voices are distinct, and the powers are explained in entirely different ways. Some of the savvies in Savvy are similar to powers in other books, especially the "Charlie Bone" series by Jenny Nimmo. For instance, Fish's savvy of summoning hurricanes and causing large bodies of water to flood reminded me of Dagbert Endless in Charlie Bone and the Beast; while Rocket's electrical savvy made me think of Charlie's Uncle Paton. We don't find out much about other people with savvies--although there is mention of identical twin cousins who can make objects hover; Grandpa can move mountains; and Mibs' younger brother, Samson, seems to have a precocious savvy that enables him to calm other people's emotions (much like Jasper in Twilight). However, I'm not criticizing--these similarities in no way detract from the story! I'm just making text-to-text connections, as we say in elementary school literacy instruction.

Mibs' savvy turns out to be--SPOILER ALERT--the ability to hear secrets about people, blabbed by their tattoos--or even by pen-and-ink drawings on their skin. Okay, that one's pretty unusual, I guess ... ooooh, no, wait--I remember an X-Files episode about that: Never Again, in which the killer's tattoo reveals his intentions in Jodie Foster's voice!

Savvy is a well-written, fast-paced fantasy that will tug at your heartstrings--while making you wonder what your savvy would be if you were a Beaumont. Here's a cute interview in which the author answers the questions of a couple of nine-year-old fans.

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