Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scumbling Your Savvy

I love the words savvy and scumble. I can't help but want to use them on my kids when they act too smart. "Hey! You better scumble your savvy!" Savvy and Scumble are not only delightfully fun words but delightfully fun books as well. But in Ingrid Law's books they refer to something a lot more wonderful and dangerous than a too smart mouth.
The members of certain families out there are born with special powers, or savvies. A savvy is a knack for something, but for a special something, like moving the earth and making mountains or starting a storm or producing electricity or making every endeavor perfect. A savvy makes itself known on a person's thirteenth birthday and can have disastrous results depending on the savvy.  From that point a person has to learn how to scumble, or control, the savvy. Mibs, the main character of Newbery Honor Book Savvy, has her thirteenth birthday turn out even worse when her father is in a terrible accident preceding the big day. She ends up taking her brothers and a couple acquaintances on an unforgettable road trip convinced that only she can wake their father up. Scumble takes place 9 years after Savvy and follows the adventures of Mib's cousin Ledge. His thirteenth has brought him a savvy he doesn't want and is hard to scumble. After he blows the barn on his uncle's ranch to pieces during his cousin's wedding reception he is forced to stay on the ranch for the summer in hopes he will learn to scumble. But a nosy neighbor has discovered the family has a secret and Ledge has to work hard to keep her from telling the world.

These books are absolutely perfect for the 8-12 year old audience they are intended for. I enjoyed them quite a lot myself, but as a kid I would have loved them. These are stories mostly about growing up, moving from childhood to adolescence, and the scary conflicted feelings that accompany this transition. Each book contains a first kiss, the awakenings of a first crush. These are very much innocent occurrences. In both books the girls involved hold things to a friendly non romantic line.

Mibs and Ledge are very different main characters who have different conflicts. They both go through a period of denial about what their savvies are and they both try to run away from them, but their stories take different paths. Savvy is a great road trip story with a quirky set of companions. Scumble is an action packed mystery. enjoyed Scumble slightly more than I enjoyed Savvy but I think that is mostly because Law's writing improved between the two. Also there are places in Savvy where the story is almost too saccharine sweet.

I find it very interesting how both novels followed along traditional gender lines so much. Mibs' savvy involves reading people and their feelings and figures out her savvy through her interpersonal relationships. Ledge's savvy is about building things and he figures his out by striking out on his own. I didn't have a problem with this, but there was an element of this part of the world building that irked me a bit. It is mentioned in the first book and supported through out that the males of the family seem to get the more interesting, dangerous and powerful savvies.  Their savvies are always the more difficult to scumble. I'm not real sure what Law is trying to say with this.

Overall the books are very good and I would recommend them to any young fans of fantasy and adventure. Law's website mentions she is working on a third book in the series. 

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