Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Savvy, Ingrid Law

Title:  Savvy
Author:  Ingrid Law
Publisher: Puffin
Year:  2008
Pages:  368
Genre:  Magical Realism/Fantasy
Themes:  Family, Identity, Coming of Age
Age Range:  4th Grade and Up

Summary:  (from Goodreads)

For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a "savvy" -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it's the eve of Mibs's big day.
As if waiting weren't hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs's birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman's bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up -and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

I started reading this book at the beginning of the school year so I could model a reading journal for my students.  Once my students were independent on our independent reading routine, I put the book aside for days and weeks at a time.  It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the story, because I did.  But one busy day as the teacher bled into the next, and the book got buried under papers to grade, projects to finish, an drawings that my students made me.
Yesterday I was cleaning out a bin and discovered it again, and I am so glad that I did.  This story is frankly charming.  Mibs' voice is uniquely her own-the musings of a girl from a unique family with a unique perspective on the world.  Despite the impossibility of the circumstances, Mibs' voice rings true as she begins the awkward, often painful, usually embarrassing  transition from little girl to young woman.  I think that there are many children who would relate to the changes that Mibs is going through-we may not all have special powers, but who doesn't feel as though the world has suddenly tilted on its axis when we have our first crush, or our first grown up party, or when we realize that our own parents may not live for ever.  
This novel is also a good teaching tool for fantasy that is different than fairy tales or fables.  The magical realism in the book makes the most mundane activities take on an air of wonder, and yet still be totally relateable in a way that high fantasy is not.  There is also a chance to talk about character motivation and feelings with this novel.  Between Mibs' feelings about her father's accident and her crush, her brothers' reactions to their savvies, and the conflicted feelings of the bus driver and the waitress they pick up, and Mibs' ability to hear what other people are thinking, this book as s rich emotional landscape that will pull the reader in and make talking about issues of identity, self-worth, and responsibility easy.

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