Savvy by Ingrid Law

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Law, Ingrid.  Savvy.  Dial Books for Young Readers, 2008.  $16.99, 352 pages

Link to Author’s Website:  http://www.ingridlaw.com/Site/HOME.html

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:  Can Mibs’ use her savvy in time to save her father from a coma?

Summary:

When a member of the Beaumont family turns 13, he or she discovers their “savvy” or magical talent.  Mississippi “Mibs” Beaumont is about to turn 13.  Her older brothers are able to control electricity and summon powerful storms.  Her mother does everything perfectly.  Her father, disappointingly, is “normal.”  Eager to find out her savvy, the celebrations of her special day are dampened when her father ends up in a coma after an accident and her mother leaves to go to her father’s side.  Because Mibs thinks her savvy is restoring life, she is eager to join her mother and father and to return her father to his full capacity.  She convinces her siblings, and a ragtag group of friends, to accompany her on a journey that promises to be full of adventure.  Stowing away on a Bible mobile, this quirky group journey from the town of Emerald to her father’s hospital bedside, discovering their own voices, strengths, and special talents that have nothing to do with savvies.

Evaluation:

Ingrid Law’s Savvy is a coming of age story about a 13 year old girl and her friends.  Through this whimsically written tale of magic and family, and questing and self-discovery, Mibs learns about her strengths and qualities that have nothing to do with the magical talents that her family gains at 13.  It is the story of family love, where Mibs wants to help her father with her new talent (which turns out to be something else entirely).  Finding the good in things that appear to be bad is another theme that runs through this novel.  It is also the story of finding her own voice and heeding it.  The characters are quirky and endearing, believable in their bonds with each other.  Using both humor and fantasy, Law creates another world, but a realistic one where the reader watches as Mibs and her friends mature and overcome obstacles set in their way.  There are some made up vocabulary words used for world building that make the language more complex, as is Law’s writing style itself.  Other references to The Wizard of Oz can also be found in the story, which may make it more accessible for other readers who are familiar with this other story.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  fantasy, magic, coming of age

Appeal Factors:  magical abilities, family relationships, friendships, quest, quirky characters, coming of age

Readalike Titles or Authors:

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Newbery Honor Book
  • Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Beaumont family’s savvies
  • First appearance of Mibs’ savvy
  • Starting the quest to get to her father

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • What savvy would you want?
  • How was Mibs able to find peace with her actual savvy?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this novel because of the magical aspect.  I thought it was an interesting concept that all the members of the Beaumont family would receive special “savvies” when they turned 13.  The mystery of what Mibs’ actual savvy is was intriguing.  I also enjoyed the colorful cast of characters, and Law’s writing style.

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

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Sloan, Robin.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24 – Hour Bookstore.  Farrar, 2012.  $25, 304 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:  http://www.robinsloan.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:

Ancient codes and secret societies are no match for Clay, his ragtag group of friends, and the powers of Google and modern technology.

Summary:

Graphic designer Clay Jannon is down on his luck.  Recently let go from designing the website for a bagel shop, he starts a new position: night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore.  The weird thing about this bookstore, or rather its customers, is that no one ever buys the new books.  Instead they head to the back of the store and rent from the set of books which Mr. Penumbra has warned Clay not to read.  When his curiosity gets the best of him, Clay discovers that the books are actually written in code.  Soon Clay is applying modern technology and algorithms to solve these complex codes.  With the help of Kat, a Google employee, Neel, a technology entrepeneur, and others of the digital world, Clay sets out on a quest that pits him against the Unbroken Spine in search of the legacy left behind by sixteenth century printer Aldus Manutius.

Evaluation:

Robin Sloan’s love of technology and literature are quite clear in this novel.  Thematically, it repeats the idea that technology complements literature and vice versa.  References to modern technology and the large role that it plays in Clay’s quest firmly sets this novel in contemporary times and makes it appealing to audiences of digital natives.  The language is also contemporary and easy to understand.  The descriptions and observations are both entertaining and witty.  The plot moves at an engaging pace, with the actions and events keeping the reader’s attention.  Rather than a novel of suspense or drama, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore reads more like a fantasy-buddy quest with a motley crew of likeable characters and the treasure of self-discovery as they search for another treasure all together.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  realistic fiction, adventure – technothriller, quest

Appeal Factors:  technology, questing, codes, secret society, Google

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Alex Award
  • LA Times – Book Prize for First Fiction Finalist

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Description of the bookstore and Mr. Penumbra
  • Description of the suspicious bookstore clientele
  • Clay making progress in breaking the code

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Do you agree or disagree with Gerritszoon’s message at the end about friendship?
  • What is the future of printed books?  Will they become obsolete like the tech at Google predicted?
  • How do technology and literature complement each other?  Or do they?

Why I Chose This:

The promise of nerdy pursuits, a supporting cast of quirky characters, a quest, Google, all encompassed in a 24 hour bookstore was what drew me to this book.  A 24-hour bookstore sounded like an interesting concept.  I wondered what would go on in a bookstore at the wee hours of the morning.  The group of misfits banding together to solve a problem (or puzzle/code in this case) was also appealing, as I enjoy unconventional characters and seeing how they fit together and find or make their own place in the world.