Law, I. (2011). Savvy. Waterville, Me.: Thorndike Press.
Mibs’s family, the Beaumonts, are an ordinary family with a bizarre and magical secret. They each possess a special magical gift unique to them. It appears on their thirteenth birthday, and Mibs’s birthday is right around the corner. Unfortunately, before she can turn thirteen, her father is in a terrible accident that lands him in a coma. Mibs sets off an adventure with her siblings and friends from church (from whom they must conceal the family secret) sure that her new savvy will save her father.
The entire cast of Savvy is made of realistic kids and teenagers. It’s easy to imagine them fitting in to (or rather standing out from) any school or neighborhood. There’s the rebellious but secretly sweet teenager, the shy youngster, the sincere and admitted loner (“I don’t have any friends”), the mysterious and charismatic boy with a secret, and more. They are developed and believable as well as relatable to any reader who has ever been different, talked about, bullied, or has been looking for their own sense of belonging or savvy.
Spurred by an understandable desire to save her father and a belief that she has that power, Mibs jumpstarts the story by bringing the reader along on a realistic adventure. Every part of the plot is grounded in reality (or the reality of the story). Aside from the magical elements, this could easily happen in the real world. A child longs to be with her father after a tragic accident and finds any means necessary to get to him which spurs a hunt for them and their “kidnappers.” It’s easy to understand how a child would want to believe that they could help their parents in their hour of need, whether or not they actually possessed a magical ability.
The style of the story was consistent. The language used fit the setting of Nebraska/Kansas, but it can be difficult to follow for those unaccustomed to it.
This is, through all its magical additions, a story of family and belonging. Because of their differences, the Beaumonts grew together stronger than most families. They had to be mostly isolated from the outside world because of the danger they posed to others not in possession of a savvy before they could fully control their powers. This isolation and the mystery surrounding it caused others to pull away and gossip about the odd family. While this strengthened the familial bond, it left the children feeling lost, friendless, and lonely. Mibs wants to find her place in the world in addition to helping the family she loves at a time of crisis. She finds freedom in finally revealing the Beaumont secret, making friends, and letting her guard down a bit. That freedom and a wider sense of belonging is imperative at her age, and readers of all ages can relate to her journey.
From School Library Journal: “Law has a feel for characters and language that is matched by few. With its delightful premise and lively adventure, this book will please a wide variety of audiences, not just fantasy fans. Definitely an author to watch.”
From Booklist: “Law’s storytelling is rollicking, her language imaginative, and her entire cast of whacky, yet believable characters delightful. Readers will want more from Law; her first book is both wholly engaging and lots of fun.”
-Pair with other teen fantasy:
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamore Pierce
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
-Have students brainstorm what their savvy might be and write an essay.