They don't know exactly where it comes from, but they do know that it runs down Momma's side of the family. Daddy's a regular guy, happy with his family and content with his job. Meanwhile, Momma's relatives can do all sorts of wacky things. Great-Aunt Jules would step back twenty minutes in time every time she sneezed. Olive, a second cousin, has the ability to melt ice with her glare. Grandpa Bomba creates new places "whenever and wherever" he pleases, such as the stretch of land stuck between Kansas and Nebraska where he lives with his daughter and their family. (They call it Kansaska or Nebransas.) His wife caught radio waves in old glass jars, saving snippets of songs and stories that she could tune into anytime. Now that she's passed away, the family is extremely careful with these containers and treasures the sounds they emit upon a gentle loosening of their lids.
Then there's the immediately family. Momma's perfect, always - that's her savvy. Oldest child Rocket, aged seventeen, is the body electric, able to illuminate rooms during a blackout or teasingly zap a sibling whenever he feels like it. Weather shakes the next oldest boy, fourteen-year-old Fish, whose emotional hurricane can manifest into a real storm. The youngest kids, somber seven-year-old Samson and imaginative three-year-old Gypsy, are years away from getting their savvies, but when the story opens, middle child Mississippi is about to turn thirteen.
Affectionately called Mibs by her family, a nickname created by Gypsy in an attempt to pronounce her sister's name, our beloved narrator is appropriately awkward for her age and anxious for her birthday. She knows something's coming, something good.
Then something bad happens. The night before her birthday, Mibs' father is in a car accident and taken to a hospital. Momma and Rocket rush off to tend to him, leaving the other children in the care of Grandpa Bomba. Instead of having a happy birthday at home, Mibs finds herself at a gathering planned by the pastor's wife, Miss Rosemary. Mibs and her siblings, already worried about their father, now worry that Mibs' savvy will make itself known in public.
When the birthday girl discovers that a Bible salesman's bus came from the direction of the hospital where her father is resting, she impulsively sneaks on board. The stowaway count increases when Fish and Samson decide to get on the bus, as do the pastor's offspring, defiant Bobbi (who has a crush on Rocket) and gentle Will Junior (who has a crush on Mibs).
The salesman starts down the road, oblivious to his new cargo, and Mibs goes from excited to scared in the blink of an eye. They're heading in the opposite direction, away from the hospital rather than towards it! Her savvy, which had presented itself only a short while before, starts playing with her mind, but she tries to keep it a secret.
Mibs looks around and realizes that she's on an unplanned road trip to who-knows-where with two of her brothers, one of whom barely speaks, a meek salesman named Lester that she doesn't know, and the pastor's kids. As unpredictable and unprecedented as the trip may be, one thing's for certain: Mibs will never forget her thirteenth birthday.
Ingrid Law infuses her sweet family-oriented story with mischief, creating a special effect. Whether or not they have special powers, each character is easily distinguishable from the others, including the grown-ups. It's almost as if the kids from the Maggie Valley books by Kerry Madden (Gentle's Holler, etc) were given the powers of the X-Men. The fact that the Beaumonts gain their powers at the age of thirteen is a perfect nod to their coming-of-age, and this book is a treat for all ages.
Savvy is, from start to finish, a delightful journey. This rite of passage is highly recommended. Target audience: Ages 8 and up. I've included Savvy on my Best Books of 2008 (So Far) list.
Read my interview with the author, Ingrid Law.
Read an excerpt of Savvy.
Read the eBook of Savvy for free online between July 14th and July 20th.
Visit the related websites: Ingrid Law, Penguin Books and Walden Media.