Ledger (Ledge) Kale has some pretty specific ideas about what his savvy is going to be. He and his dad figure that with his mother’s savvy genes and his father’s athletic ones, Ledge is sure to wake up on the morning of his 13th birthday with a gift for speed that will leave his competition in the dust. Unfortunately, what his birthday actually brings is a litter of broken devices and an itchy feeling that promises that things around him will continue to fall apart until he can figure out how to control, or scumble, his “gift.”
Instead of sending Ledge off to figure out his savvy for himself, this time Law places her protagonist’s new talent in the midst of a multitude of mentors. Left on the family ranch for the summer, Ledge receives coaching and encouragement — some of it helpful — from Grandpa Bomba, Uncle Autry, a variety of cousins, and even a few outsiders. While Scumble acknowledges the impact of Ledge’s talent on the people around him, the emphasis here is on self-acceptance. Though there is evidence that his father tries hard not to burden his son, Ledge feels a heavy obligation to meet his family’s expectations. The accidental discovery of the positive side of his savvy draws the reader’s attention to hints earlier in the story even as it suggests to Ledge that there may be more to his future than those expectations proposed.
Scumble‘s message — that each person should learn to accept and use their unique gifts, rather than trying to making them fit in with everyone else — is much more direct than Savvy‘s. While some older readers might tire of the often-repeated theme, it really is handled well, with different characters drawing on their own experiences and personalities to contribute to the overall argument. I was a bit surprised to discover that Law’s tendency toward colloquial language was largely the same between the two books, despite the fact that Mibs and Ledge come from different families living in different parts of the US. However, narrators Lily Blau (Savvy) and David Kremenitzer (Scumble) help to create distinct voices for each character, so that the unusual vocabulary takes on a different colour in each novel.
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