Ten: Defining “Hero”

The topic for this week’s Ten followed my discovery, on following a recommendation, that my library had three different books called Sidekicks — a middle grade series starter, a YA novel, and a graphic novel. Of course I requested all three. As I read these, and the others listed below, I found that while the term “hero” is still popular, almost every story focused on a “hero” is at least partly concerned with what exactly heroism means. Traditionally — according to dictionary.com — a hero is (some mix of) daring, altruistic and courageous, and admired by his or her community for these qualities. Is that really what makes a hero? And what does heroism look like when you’re called on to be the hero? Check out this week’s titles for ten answers.

Sidekicks written by Dan Danko and Tom Mason and illustrated by Barry Gott
A group of kids with promising but undeveloped powers provide their services whenever the League of Big Justice needs a hand. When the League is captured, Guy Martin (Speedy) leads the other sidekicks on a rescue mission. While several characters claim the role of “hero” based more on supposed “powers” than on actual heroic activity, Guy and his fellow sidekicks are brave, resourceful, and willing to use their respective talents to help when needed. Continue reading

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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.

Ten: Guess What I Can Do!

Kids’ and teens’ books are full of characters with talents and abilities that don’t quite fit in. The difficulty of accepting these differences adds weight to the burden of growing up, but it also offers a point of familiarity for readers who feel out of place in life. This week’s Ten looks at the experience of otherness from various angles, with particular interest in the common secondary theme of recognising the power bestowed by that otherness and the importance of learning to use said power responsibly.

Dreamcatcher by Monica Hughes
In the midst of a community of gifted people, Ruth’s gifts mostly just cause trouble. When she starts receiving messages from outside of the city’s dome, however, Ruth and her gifts are proven valuable not only to her own community, but also to another community in need of help that Ruth is particularly suited to offer. Be sure to read Devil on my Back, first. Continue reading