Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coming of Age the Hard Way: Savvy by Ingrid Law

Navigating early adolescence is hard enough for anyone, but for children in the Beaumont family, the thirteenth birthday means more than becoming an official teenager. Sometime on that fateful day, the Beaumonts get their "savvy," an unusual and potentially dangerous special ability which is different, but equally challenging, for each one. Mibs' mother's savvy means she's perfect at everything she does, which is mostly a good thing, but her oldest brother Rocket's savvy mades him electric, capable of starting cars, exploding traffic lights and knocking out power for a whole town. Her second oldest brother, Fish, gets his weather savvy on his birthday and sets off a bit of adolescent sturm und drang with a hurricane which floods their coastal town.

Luckily for the family, who have to move far from the ocean to limit Fish's destructive power, Grandpa Bomba's savvy empowers him to move mountains and actually create a new piece of land for them--a prairie farm in a place they name Kansaska/Nebransas. Controlling and keeping their savvys private makes the whole family a bit reclusive, but as Mibs' birthday grows near, she can barely contain both her fear and her anticipation that her savvy will be something wonderful.

Then, just before that day, Mibs' father is critically injured in a driving accident and lies in a coma some miles away in a Salina, Kansas, hospital. To be with him, her mother and Rocket leave the rest of the family in the care of their pastor's wife, and Mibs finds herself the guest at an unwanted birthday celebration at the Hebron church, a party arranged by the overbearing and self-righteous wife of the minister, with the reluctant and minimal assistance of her sulky teenaged daughter Bobbie. Hoping that her savvy will bring her the power to awaken and cure her comatose father, Mibs is horrified to discover that instead, her savvy seems to be the power to read people's thoughts through their handwriting--or body art. The first experience comes when Bobbie leans over to expose a fake tattoo of a haloed angel with a devil's tail and plenty of adolescent attitude:

"She's really very lonely, you know...." says the devilish angel.

Mibs is taken aback by the sudden ability to hear a talking tattoo--and by the concept that the tough-talking Bobbi is in any way vulnerable. Just as Mibs is beginning to realize what her new-found savvy really means, the plot takes a surprising turn with the appearance of a pink school bus with Heartland Bible Supply, Salina, Kansas, in script across the side, driven by a Walter-Mitty-ish delivery man named Lester. Thinking that she can escape her horrible birthday celebration and stow away on the bus back to Salina to see her father, Mibs tries to slip quietly aboard to hide. Unfortunately, she is followed by the minister's son, Will, Jr., who seems to have taken quite a shine to her, the ever-surly Bobbi, and her stormy brother Fish, who suddenly feels big-brotherly responsibility for her and little brother Samson. The unlikely traveling companions hide among the boxes of big pink Bibles stowed in the rear of the bus and are taken aback when Lester turns the bus, not toward Salina, Kansas, but onward into Nebraska.

It's quite a pilgrimage for this motley crew, a disaster of a sortie through the Great Plains, where Samson proves that he can hide anywhere, even inside the walls of a rusty mobile home; Mibs gets her first kiss from Will, Jr., who turns out to have a major secret of his own; Bobbi evolves into to a better friend than Mibs ever imagined; Fish finally learns to "scumble" (manage) his blustery savvy; Lester finds his soul mate in a waitress with a heart of gold and an eye for a goodhearted man; and the big pink bus, having acquired a police escort (don't ask!), finally makes its way back to the hospital in Salina.

Finally in her father's room, Mibs sees the gravity of his condition and her hopes that her new-found savvy may enable her to call him back to himself seems childish wishful thinking. Then Mibs remembers that her father, an old Navy man, has a mermaid tattoo on his forearm and realizes that indeed her savvy will provide a means to communicate with the unconscious man. All's well that ends well, and with her dad's recovery it's back to their ordinary extraordinary daily life for the savvy Beaumonts. Mibs is reconciled to her strange powers by the realization that everyone alive has his own savvy and that true power comes from being able to use whatever you've got well.

Ingrid Law's just published Savvy introduces a fresh voice and a one-of-a-kind coming of age heroine, a catch-as-catch-can adventure story as wild as a tornado and as down to earth as a dusty Kansas road. Kirkus Reviews gives this one a star (as does Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist) and says, "There are no serious villains here, only challenges to be met, friendships to be made and some growing up to do on the road to a two-hanky climax," and calls this four-star first novel "A marvel-laden debut."

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  • May I suggest a book to check out, for ages 12 and upwards? "Outcasts Of Skagaray" is a fantasy adventure
    with suspense and action but no gross bloodshed. For a free preview, go to and see the sample chapters. Your opinion would be very much appreciated if you decide to check this one out. It was written for the abandoned and unwanted children of the world.

    By Blogger Andrew Clarke, at 2:23 AM  

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