Sunday, January 11, 2009

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Birthdays don't sneak up on anybody. Whether they are either eagerly anticipated or grudgingly accepted, we know they are coming. But the Beaumont children look to their thirteenth birthday with more anticipation, more excitement, and more curiosity than your average tween becoming a teen.

At thirteen, you see, Beaumonts receive their savvy.

A Beaumont family savvy is a unique ability, a power, beyond normal human capacity. Mibs, short for Mississippi, is awaiting the arrival of her savvy, just days before her thirteenth birthday. Will she blow out the candles on her cake only to have fires die throughout a four county radius? Or will her puffed cheeks cause her to start floating toward the ceiling?

The novel’s plot is simple enough. Two days before her birthday, her father is in a car accident, leaving him in a coma ninety miles south in Salina, Kansas. Mibs knows her soon-to-arrive savvy will be just what Poppa needs to wake up if only she can get to Salina in time. She stows away on a pink Bible delivery bus that’s headed that direction, but before it can leave, she is discovered and joined by her brothers, Fish and Samson, and the local preacher’s kids, Will Junior and Roberta.

Predictable difficulties arise. The bus travels in the wrong direction. They are discovered by Lester, bus driver and Bible salesman. There are stops for deliveries and dinner and a maid in distress that delay their arrival in Salina. Their faces are plastered on the news as missing children.

What makes Ingrid Law's book so enjoyable is the Beaumont savvies. Oldest brother Rocket could keep the lights on when the power went out and zap his siblings from across the room. Strong emotions, however, cause power surges that leave blown circuits in his wake. Second brother Fish changes the weather, causing a hurricane on his thirteenth birthday and an ever-present threat of wind and rain. Mom has the tendency to do things perfectly.

As readers learn more about the family, more savvies are revealed. An aunt who steps back twenty minutes in time with every sneeze. A cousin who melts ice with her glare. Grandpa, with a low rumble deep in the Earth, can create land. Grandma could catch radio waves and store them in canning jars. One aunt could open any lock, another could get people to do whatever she wanted.

But Beaumonts are taught from early on that they’re just like other people. “We get born, and sometime later we die. And in between, we’re happy and sad, we feel love and we feel fear, we eat and we sleep and we hurt like everyone else.” And in Mibs’ search for her own savvy and quest for her father’s health, she and her family experience them all.

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