Ten: On a Mission

The legends of King Arthur’s knights are inseparable from the idea of questing: to slay or capture or rescue. In this week’s Ten, we share some other stories centred on a mission. The quests below vary from the weighty — a quest to save a life, or answer an important question — to the silly, and even the every day. The stories demonstrate that approaching a task as a mission can help to turn fear to determination, tedium to adventure, and entertainment to challenge. May we all do more questing!

Running out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Jessie’s quiet life in a frontier village takes a surreal turn when she is sent out alone to obtain medicine for local children dying of diphtheria, and finds that nearly everything she thought true about her life is an illusion. Continue reading

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Ten: Vying for the Throne

Arthur demonstrated his claim to the throne but pulling Excalibur from a rock. Others’ paths to a throne (or its equivalent) have been a little more complicated. This week’s Ten looks at how a variety of characters have approached the challenge of winning a place at the top, whether facing curses, usurpers, or strings of bizarre tests.

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
Prince Khemri’s one of ten million princes responsible for keeping the Empire humming. Though his first experiences as an adult prince quickly teach him to moderate his opinion of himself, it turns out that Khemri is indeed a favourite of the Emperor, picked out as a top candidate for the throne. The job of proving himself the best suited of a galaxy full of princes raises questions, though, and leaves Khemri wondering whether the system he’s been raised to benefit from is really so great after all. Continue reading

Scumble by Ingrid Law — Audiobook Edition

Scumble coverLedger (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.

Read another review from Book Aunt.

Check out an interview with Ingrid Law: How I Write, or read Law’s savvy origin story.

Savvy by Ingrid Law — Audiobook Edition

Savvy coverMibs Beaumont’s 13th birthday will reveal her special talent – her savvy – but it’s only the beginning of the process of learning to use that talent. Last year, when her brother Fish turned 13, his newfound power over local weather resulted in a short-lived, but damaging hurricane. He’s still figuring out how to keep that power under control.

A few days before her birthday, her father is in an accident that leaves him in a coma in Salina, 90 miles away. Mibs’s mother leaves the younger Beaumonts at home with Grandpa Bamba to be with him, but when events on her birthday convince Mibs that her savvy can help her father, she stows away on a Bible delivery bus in an attempt to follow. Her rescue mission gets complicated when Fish, the pastor’s kids, Roberta and Will, Jr., and the Beaumont’s younger brother, Samson, join in, and the fact that the bus still has several stops scheduled in the opposite direction before returning to Salina doesn’t help, either. In the two days that it takes to actually reach her destination, Mibs discovers the true nature of her savvy, Fish figures out the secret of managing his, and all five kids find ways to share their respective talents, savvy and otherwise.

Savvy places a lot of emphasis on the roles that a person’s talent plays in the context of a community. Mibs’s talent is an inherently social one, focusing the necessity of control on the way that that talent affects her relationships with her brothers, her friends, and a handful of others encountered through the course of the novel. The audiobook, narrated by Lily Blau, does a great job of bringing the story to life and settling Law’s tendency toward creative colloquialisms into the broader “tall tale” approach to the story.

Check back Wednesday to find out how the next Savvy book, Scumble, compares!

For a conservative but very detailed review, visit Kimberly Lyn Kane’s blog. For another take on Savvy, check out another review on Librarian Tells All.

The official Savvy book trailer:

P.S. Apologies for the delayed review.