June might seem early to start thinking about the 2013 Newbery awards, but Sway, a middle grade novel by AmberMcRee Turner, is already getting some buzz.
In ten-year-old Cass’s eyes, her mother, Toodi Bleu, can do no wrong. After all, she’s a hero--as a member of the Southern Mobile Aid Response Team, she helps people deal with the aftermath of twisters, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters. Cass desperately hopes she’ll be allowed to join her mother on her next rescue mission.
But Mom’s visit home goes horribly wrong. Instead of taking Cass with her, Toodi abandons her family. Unable to accept the situation, Cass decides the desertion must be her father’s fault. She dreams up ways to make contact with Toodi, even as Dad hatches a crazy plan of his own. Disguised as his alter-ego, M. B. McClean, and armed with a suitcase full of soap fragments, he takes the reluctant Cass on a road trip through the South. He’s determined to introduce her to sway, a mystical power that he claims runs in their family, with stops along the way that straddle the line between medicine show, scam, and performance art.
Turner’s well-drawn characters are what makes the book so special. The adults and children in Sway are smart, talented, quirky, outrageous, and imperfect--but they are authentic and believable, even when their actions are over the top.
I highly recommend this book. As Cass’s motor-driven cousin, Syd, would say, it’s awes. As Cass might say, it will leave you utterly flabberwobbled. Since I don’t have Turner’s gift for inventive language, I’ll just say it’s poignant, heartwarming, and laugh-out-loud funny.