Thirteenth birthdays are a big deal in the Beaumont house, because that is the age when every Beaumont child receives their “savvy”–the unique special power that everyone in the family inherits. Fish has the power to create storms. Rocket has power over electricity. But a few days before Mibs reaches her savvy birthday, her father is in a horrible car accident and slips into a coma. As Momma and Rocket rush off to see him in the hospital in Salina, Mibs, Fish, and their younger siblings get left under the care of the preacher and his wife, Miss Rosemary, who know nothing of savvy birthdays.
Miss Rosemary is intent on throwing Mibs a party to keep her mind off of the family tragedy, but Mibs just wants to be left alone to figure out what her savvy is. A newborn, uncontrolled savvy can be a dangerous thing. But in the middle of the night on her savvy birthday, strange things begin to happen. First Mibs seems to wake her sister, Gypsy, from a deep sleep, using her mind. Then she brings her brother Samson’s dead pet turtle back to life. Realizing that her savvy must be the ability to wake things, Mibs decides to run away to Salina to wake her father from his coma. Under cover of birthday party chaos, Mibs makes her escape. It is not as subtle as she planned, however, and she winds up with a motley crew of traveling companions: Fish, Samson, and Miss Rosemary’s children, sixteen year old Bobbi and fourteen year old Will Junior. The children stow away in the back of a Bible delivery bus, and their road-trip adventure begins.
Although Savvy definitely falls within the genre of fantasy, its focus is grounded in reality–dealing with themes of family and relationships, growing up, individuality, and dealing with tragedy. Yet the tone of the book is not too dark. It has its serious moments and its funny moments. I greatly enjoyed this Newbery Honor book, and would recommend it to middle grade readers!
If you liked Savvy, you might like Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech.