Savvy

I finally finished listening to Savvy this afternoon. This seems to have been the summer of infinite distractibility. “Oohhh… look… the garden looks so pretty in the morning light! Let me go roam among the sunflowers and oregano!” “Ooohhh… look… that store’s selling iced tea with scoops of lemon gelato in it. Let’s get some and stay all afternoon long!” “Ooohhh… look… I already have 25 books in a crazy stack teetering beside my bed. Let’s go to the library and find more! More, I say!”

In spite of the fact that my listening experience was stretched over… um… the whole summer, I really and truly enjoyed Savvy the whole way through. Let us not measure this narrative’s reader-appeal by my unusual ability to extend a 6 hour audiobook over nearly 60 days. (Perhaps this is my savvy… hmmm). I think Savvy will find it’s way into the hearts of many readers, and I imagine it is a story that will have strong staying power. There’s something old-fashioned about this one that just feels really good.

Savvy is the story of the Beaumont family, especially Mibs Beaumont, who at the beginning of the book is a few weeks before her thirteenth birthday. Thirteen is a big one when you’re a Beaumont, because on this particular birthday, every family member can expect their “savvy” to show up (a savvy being an unusual talent or gift). Mibs’ two older brothers have rather alarmingly powerful savvies: causing hurricanes and creating electricity respectively. Her mother has a talent for perfection, be it cake-making or smiling or listening to her kids. Her grandfather has the ability to make the land move. Naturally, Mibs is more than a little bit eager to find out what her savvy will be, but mere days before her party, her father is in a serious accident that changes a lot more than her birthday plans. Pretty soon, she and her siblings and the preacher’s kids end up on a pink bible bus headed on a zigzag journey towards (and sometimes away from) the hospital where her father is being treated. This journey ends up influencing Mibs’ life every bit as much as the arrival of her savvy.

This is one of those books with a premise to make any wannabe writer envious. A family of people with strange abilities that manifest on their thirteenth birthdays? Cool. But a cool premise alone does not necessarily make a successful book. Good thing Ingrid Law seems to have what she needs to be a writer-to-watch. Mibs’s voice rings true and clear. She’s a sweet, honest kid who you can’t help but root for. You really believe in her love for her family, and in her desire to do all that she can to keep it well. There’s a real troupe of quirky and endearing secondary figures too, lending comedy and richness to the plot. I’m also a sucker for a story about a journey (we’re talking more about the literal get-in-a-bus-and-get-driving type of journey here), especially a wild and unpredictable one. The pink bible bus takes quite the circuitous path on its way to reunite Mibs with her poppa at Salina hospital. It takes a writer with a clear sense of direction to produce a tale of a wayward journey that never feels slack. Let’s just say that a lot happens on the way to Salina, and yet you never forget that that’s where the story is going.

I think there’s a certain similarity to Kate DiCamillo’s style and type of storytelling in Savvy, what with the richness of the language and the homey-wisdom of the story. I can see that kids who enjoy Because of Winn Dixie will take pleasure in Savvy too. I highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by a completely convincing Lily Blau. You can listen to the first chapter here. Some books seem almost made for listening, and I think you’ll agree that Savvy is one of them.

Additional blog reviews:

Random Wonder
The Children’s Book Review
slayground
Sarah Miller

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