Savvy by Ingrid Law
I often reckoned what it would be like for me. I pictured myself blowing out the candles on my cake and fires dying in chimneys across four counties. Or I imagined making my secret birthday wish – getting my cheeks round and full of air — then floating up toward the ceiling like my very own happy birthday balloon.
“My savvy is going to be a good one,” I told my brother Rocket. “I just know it.”
Everyone has a special something about them — maybe you make the world’s best apple pies, tell hilarious stories or have an uncanny talent for dancing to polka music. The Beaumont family is a little bit different, though, and Mississippi Beaumont can’t wait to find out just how different she is. When each Beaumont turns 13, he or she finds out what special talent or savvy they have. Mrs. Beaumont’s savvy is being perfect — she cleans perfectly, cooks perfectly and even makes perfect mistakes. Brother Rocket who is “full of junk that I wasn’t allowed to say until I got much, much older” can generate electricity and Fish (who is aptly named) can cause hurricanes and thunderstorms.
Mississippi (or Mibs, as her sister Gypsy calls her) is counting down the days to her birthday when her family gets a terrible phone call. Their father has been in a car accident and is now in the hospital in Salina – far away from their little town in Kansaska Nebransas. It is then that Mibs decides, during an ill-advised birthday party, that she must go to Salina and use her savvy to help her father who is in a coma. Add in a preacher’s son and daughter, a pink bus and a Bible salesman, a down-on-her-luck, always-is-late waitress, and a childhood crush and you have Savvy – a rollicking, heart-felt adventure of epic proportions.
Review: I am currently reading Savvy out loud to my two group of 5th graders who cheer or say “YES!” every time I announce that it is read-aloud time. I think that is a sign of a great novel! Ingrid Law is a master storyteller and writes in such a unique and unexpected way. For example, “The itch and scritch of birthday buzz was all I was feeling on the Thursday before the Friday before the Saturday I turned thirteen,” or “Monday through Wednesday we called our thin stretch of land Kansaska. Thursday through Saturday we called it Nebransas. On Sundays, since that was the Lord’s Day, we called it nothing at all, out of respect for His creating our world without the lines already drawn on its face like all my grandpa’s wrinkles.” What wonderful descriptions. Law’s writing voice is so special – the students love the mind images that she creates.
I also love the myriad of characters she has created. They are unique and extremely well-developed. For example, Bobbi who is the preacher’s daughter seems standoffish and rude at first glance. She has an angel tattoo with devil horns and an eyebrow piercing. However, Law allows us to go beyond the surface with her (even though she is not a main character) and see who she really. (a lonely, uncertain girl). There are a lot of conclusions that the careful reader can draw about the characters through their interaction through one another and what they say. Ingrid is a true master of the concept of “show-not tell” which I emphasize to students is the mark of a fantastic writer.
This story has a lot of sparkle and you become deeply invested in the characters. The ending is excellent (happy but not formulaic) and is very true to life. It is a fitting ending for such a fantastical, yet believable story. Overall, this is a very original novel about growing up, standing out and becoming the person who you were meant to be.
Age Recommendation: 9 – 14