Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Review: Savvy

Image from GoodReads.com
A Book Review of:

Savvy by Ingrid Law

2009 Newbery Honor Award Book (The winner that year was Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book-- obviously a good year!)


Children in the Beaumont family know that it's hard enough turning 13, the age when their savvy shows itself for the first time. Savvy can be dangerous and unpredictable at the best of times, like her brother Fish's tendency to summon storms when he's in a foul mood, or her brother Rocket's electricity. But Mibs (short for Mississippi, but please don't call her that) knows it's even harder to turn 13 when your father lies in a coma 90 miles from where you are. She hopes her savvy can help him, and so she sneaks onto a pink Bible salesman's bus she thinks will take her to him, not realizing the adventure she is about to get her and her tag-alongs into. With the preacher's kids and her siblings along for the ride, Mibs learns new things about herself and her savvy that she never realized were in her before.
Law, I. (2008). Savvy. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.

This book is a wonderfully and creatively written coming-of-age story that makes the reader feel like we've got a little savvy in all of us. Ingrid Law writes believable and relate-able characters, and gives the reader the feeling of being right there alongside Mibs in that rickety old bus with her extraordinary sensory descriptions.  I like Mibs because she's such a refreshing and realistic character, despite the fact that hse has extraordinary powers. She is friendless because everyone thinks she is weird, but she is strong, and sticks up for herself. Her family is clearly close-knit, which is welcome and inspiring to read about. In addition, the way that Mibs reacts to the situation makes readers feel like they are really a part of the story, and we feel what Mibs is feeling. Parents will love the story for its creativity and sense of family togetherness, but children and young adults will appreciate the sense of adventure and will be able to relate to the feelings of each renegade on that bus.

Professional Reviews:

"In Mississippi Beaumont's family, turning 13 means your savvy kicks in. When her grandfather turned 13, he created Idaho. And when her brother turned 13, he caused a hurricane. At the start of Law's winning debut novel, Mississippi's 13th birthday is only two days away.  With her dad in a coma after a horrible car accident, Mississippi is convinced that her savvy will have something to do with waking people up. Along with her brothers, the cute preacher's son and his obnoxious gum-chomping sister, she sneaks aboard a delivery bus she believes is heading toward her dad, hoping to save him.
The thing about Mississippi? She's not always right. Turns out, her savvy has her hearing a whole bunch of voices in her head. When people around her have any type of ink say, a tattoo or a pen mark on their skin, she can't help but read their minds. What makes this book so engaging is that aside from the whole mind-reading thing, Mississippi isn't extraordinary. She's not excessively brilliant, incredibly attractive or overly girly. She's afraid of growing up. She prefers to be called Mibs, but the mean girls call her Missy-Pissy. She wishes she could mess up less and be more like her perfect mom. (Literally, perfect--that's her mother's savvy.) Readers, boys and girls alike, will see a bit of themselves in Mibs.
Also, the Beaumonts aren't the only ones with savvys. Normal people (the bus driver, the hitchhiker, the obnoxious gum-chomper) have them, too they just don't recognize them. As Mibs's mom says, one person might make strawberry jam so good that no one can get enough of it.... There are even those folks who never get splashed by mud after a rainstorm or bit by a single mosquito in the summertime.  The 10-year-old boy or the 40-year-old mom reading the book they might just have one, too.
Besides saving her dad, Mibs's quest in the novel is to learn to "scumble," in other words, control her savvy. She has to learn to quiet the voices she hears, and to find her own voice.  Law has definitely found hers. Short chapters and cliffhangers keep the pace quick, while the mix of traditional language and vernacular helps the story feel both fresh and timeless. And while road-trip novels tend to be more about the journey than the destination, the ending, like Momma's savvy, is pretty perfect. I wasn't sure how Law was going to manage it without going all fairy-tale, but she does the story justice, making the conclusion happy and heart-rending simultaneously, resisting the urge to tie it all up with a fancy ribbon and a happily ever after.
Law's savvy? She's a natural storyteller who's created a vibrant and cinematic novel that readers are going to love. Ages 9-11."
Mlynowski, S. (2008, April 7). [Review of the book Savvy, by I. Law].Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com

"Mibs can’t wait for her 13th birthday, when her special gift, or “savvy,” will awaken. Everyone in her family—except beloved Papa, who married in—has one, from Grandpa Bomba’s ability to move mountains (literally) to Great Aunt Jules’s time-traveling sneezes. What will hers be? Not what she wants, it turns out, but definitely what she needs when the news that a highway accident has sent her father to the ICU impels her to head for the hospital aboard a Bible salesman’s old bus. Sending her young cast on a zigzag odyssey through the “Kansaska-Nebransas” heartland, Law displays both a fertile imagination (Mibs’s savvy is telepathy, but it comes with a truly oddball caveat) and a dab hand for likable, colorful characters. There are no serious villains here, only challenges to be met, friendships to be made and some growing up to do on the road to a two-hanky climax. A film is already in development, and if it lives up to this marvel-laden debut, it’ll be well worth seeing. (Fantasy. 10-13)"
[Review of the book Savvy, by I. Law]. (2008, April 1). Kirkus' Reviews. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com


Hold a program in the library celebrating Mibs' 13th birthday, and assign everyone a savvy as they walk through the door.


Create a book display with books about kids with powers that make them special or different. So many books feature kids who learn to embrace what makes them out of the ordinary-- Matilda, Harry Potter, the Lightning Thief series, and the Charlie Bones series are examples.


  1. I just read this recently and loved it! Have you read Scumble? It's more of a spin-off than a sequel, telling the story of Mibs' cousin Ledge. I liked it a lot, and I think it might appeal to boys who are reluctant to read a book with a female protagonist (not that Mibs is especially girly).

  2. Good to know! I haven't read Scumble yet, since I just got to Savvy not long ago. Is Scumble the kind of thing that you can read on its own, or is it more useful to start with Savvy?