Savvy by Ingrid Law

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The Newbery Honor book Savvy by Ingrid Law follows similar patterns to the middle grade novel The Lightning Thief, which I read at about  the same time (thoughts here). A child (Mibs) has a birthday (this time her thirteenth) and discovers her special powers, testing them by going on a journey with other kids. Savvy felt creative in that Law creates a new world and a special family that has its secrets, since each of the Beaumonts know that their thirteenth birthday means they will discover their savvy, which can be anything from controlling the wind to catching radio waves out of the air. I liked the magic in the book. I also liked the obvious conflict with the modern world and the challenge the premise creates.

Yet, Savvy is meant to be read by a child, and as an adult, I struggled to suspend disbelief as they went on their journey. I was irritated rather than impressed by the “quest” and found myself rolling my eyes at how things were resolved, since parental involvement, police situations, and hospitals couldn’t happen as it was written. (This annoyance, though, makes no sense since the entire premise is a fantastic magical one.)  In fact, I never really felt I understood Mibs. Despite the fact that it was told in her voice, I never felt a part of her world, and her “coming of age” journey felt superficial to a fault to me. But, as I mentioned, Savvy is primarily a children’s book.

Although it is rather superficial, I think the message is something that even adults can relate to: we each can discover savvys (or personal strengths) in ourselves. I think the savvy I have is my organization. I’m pretty good at keeping things together even when there is a lot going on.

However, if I were to get a magical savvy, I think mine should be the ability to stop and start time at will. Wouldn’t that be nice? Think of how many books I could read in those in between moments and still get other things done in real time!

What is your savvy? What magical savvy would you love?

I have been pondering the two children’s novels I read recently (The Lightning Thief and Savvy), trying to think of how to expand the thoughts I have, but I find I don’t have much to say. Each only took about two hours to read, so I obviously didn’t spend much time thinking about them at the time. That said, they were a fun diversion, and it makes me excited to give more recent children’s literature a try.

Reviewed on November 10, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Several years ago, I had no problem reading middle-grade books like this, but now I find more and more often that I just don’t like them very much. It takes a lot of work to try to slip into the mindframe to read them like a child. I recently read The Girl Who Could Fly, and while I enjoyed it, there were things about the young-ness of the book that still bothered me and I had to shut down the more adult parts of my brain to enjoy it. It was a fun experience, but I doubt the book will stay with me.

    Of course, there are some middle-grade/children’s books that are different, like Lois Lowry’s or Katherine Paterson’s novels, which have definitely stuck with me!

    I liked The Lightning Thief, but I didn’t love it like my son does, and in all the sequels afterwards, though Percy ages, his voice doesn’t age and he’s still acting 12 years old when he’s 16. That was my main quibble with the books, and I didn’t enjoy any of the sequels as much as the first book. On the other hand, my son loved them all, and he probably wouldn’t have enjoyed them as much if Percy’s voice had aged. It’s an interesting decision, to make a long series of books age with the character (like Harry Potter) or stay the age of the intended reader despite the character’s age.

    • Amanda, I really enjoyed reading both of these, even though it was a bit eye-roll inducing. I want to read more Middle Grade books simply because it’s been so long since I’ve read them! And I do think I’ll read more of the Percy Jackson books. I love the Greek mythology brought to life!

  • Yeah, I’ve been having the same problem with middle grade books. They’re really hit-or-miss with me, and I can only think it’s because I’m too old now for them. YA books are easier because they’ve got more cross-over appeal to them (I think that’s what I mean).

    I’ve read both these books and really enjoyed The Lightning Thief (and the next two books, although I haven’t finished the series yet) but felt “blah” towards Savvy, and I do think it’s because the former is written more for YA/teens and the latter is children/preteens. But then, y’know, I don’t think just because it was written for children means that it necessarily has to have sloppy plot points, or a resolution that doesn’t feel true. Kate DiCamillo writes MG books and her’s are some of the loveliest MG books I’ve ever read!

    Also, I can’t help but think that if I HAD read Savvy as a kid I still would have disliked it, because the ending was so…blah.

    • Anastasia, I actually liked Savvy, despite the things about it that kind of irritated me. I thought it was cheesy but the ending didn’t seem THAT blah to me. I haven’t liked most of the YA I’ve read (granted, I’ve only read a handful each year recently) but I think that’s just because I hated being a teen! I liked being a preteen so I guess I don’t mind the eye-rolling a little. Anyway, I’ll have to try reading some more and see if I’m still able to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy them…

  • I thought the Percy Jackson series was cleverly done, though not on the same level as Harry Potter. When I worked in a bookstore, we had lots of kids who’d read the series coming in asking for books about Greek mythology, which was cool to see. I actually liked the whole series, with the exception of the third book. They all have that sort of adolescent feel to them, but they were still fun to read. I think the fact that there is an endpoint to Percy’s adventures helps; it’s not one of those open-ended series that makes you think, Where is this going?

    I’ve not read Savvy yet, but it looks fun. I’m with you on having the power to stop time! Oh, the books, the books!

    • Erin, I LOVE Greek mythology and I loved it as a kid too, so I would have been one of those kids. I’ll probably read the rest of the series at some point. Yes on the stop time thing: I’d never be tired because I could nap or read or whatever I wanted!

  • I really enjoyed The Lightening Thief but agree with the first-person voice — it was okay via that telling, but I think I would have preferred in third instead. Creative story, and something that I ultimately enjoyed — I’ll pick up the next to read at some point.

    • Coffee and a Book Chick, I’ll probably read the others too at some point, despite the fact that I didn’t like the first-person voice! I love mythology, and it’s just so much fun.

  • >>>(This annoyance, though, makes no sense since the entire premise is a fantastic magical one.)

    I think it makes sense! I do. Just because a book has a magical premise doesn’t mean that the parts of the book based in the real world shouldn’t be true to life. The more grounded a book is on those parts, the more I’m willing to believe in the magical stuff.

    And yeah, I’m afraid I’ve had some of the same problems with middle-grade fiction. It makes me sad to read a book and think of how much I would have loved it if I’d read it when I was at the target age. I feel like children’s books gave me so much as a kid, and it’s mean of me to outgrow them (ridiculous notion but I still feel that way).

    • Jenny, you’re right, if the real-world stuff is realistic the magical just works better. I still liked it and I’m feeling a “middle-grade fiction” reading kick coming on just for fun, but is harder to accept since I’ve “outgrown it.” I do think it happens.

  • Oh, I’m so behind on my Reader. My apologies for entering the discussion late.

    I didn’t really love the first Percy Jackson book (the Harry Potter-ness of it was too much for me–I couldn’t stop noticing it), but I thought the second book was an improvement.

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