Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Scumble by Ingrid Law

I resisted reading Savvy at first, because I have a strong dislike of what I think of as "Southern quirky" but once I started I was drawn into the story and enjoyed it very much, although it was still a bit too quirky for my taste.

I was prepared to like Scumble and I was not disappointed. Nine years after the events of Savvy, Ledger Kale is waiting for his own savvy to come through. He's absolutely, desperately sure it's going to be speed. After all, that's what his savvy-less dad wants most of all, so it's what he wants too. Unfortunately, that's not what he gets. What Ledger gets isn't just a savvy; it's a whole lot of trouble. Suddenly, instead of being on his way to star of the track team at school and a hero to his dad, he's stuck at the family ranch in the middle of nowhere, wondering if he'll end up like his Rocket, stuck there forever because he can't control his dangerous power.

Into this volatile mix of family pressure and magical talents, pops one SJ. She's determined, she's nosy, and she's going to find out what's going on at the ranch whether Ledger wants her to or not. Will the family secrets be revealed to the world?

This story is all about changes. Ledger is experiencing both the normal changes kids go through as they grow up; worrying about how he measures up to his parents' expectations, wanting to be independent, and realizing his parents aren't perfect. He's also dealing with a powerful talent and learning that it's important to have control and to know when to let go.

I was drawn in by the characters and rapid pacing of the plot immediately. Although there are several different storylines, they are smoothly woven together throughout the story, and there's no chance for the reader to lose interest as the characters change and grow. I did feel Ledger's discovery of the other side of his savvy was a bit too opportune to be realistic, but it did move the plot to a conclusive ending. I have one other complaint about this book, and it's kind of a general one about middle grade literature. Why is this story so darn long? My galley clocks in at a massive 401 pages. It's marketed for grades 3 - 7, but only a few truly voracious readers in grades 3 - 5 will pick up a book this large. Middle schoolers are likely to take one look at the cover and dismiss at as "too young". I'm seeing more and more of these thick books for the upper elementary grades, and they're just a bad idea. Yeah, I hate series, but please, please, please publishers break these things up! Every time I add one of these doorstopper books to my library, no matter how fascinating, exciting, delightful, or well-written the story, I feel sad, knowing that 90% of my young patrons will take one look at the massive spine and hie themselves back over to the series shelf, where the books are skinny and appear more manageable.

Rant over.

Verdict: Recommended for kids who like realistic stories as well as fantasy. You'll need to do some solid booktalking to get over the length; I recommend something along the lines of "This book obeys the most important rule of middle grade fiction: Always include an explosion. The massive bugs are just an extra."

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3307-7; Published August 2010 by Dial; ARC provided by publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.


Peaceful Reader said...

I agree about the size-it's intimidating and I can't get kids interested in this one or Savvy.

Jennifer said...

Exactly. A handful of voracious readers will grab these, but most kids will just shrug and pick up something easier - or quit reading. I'm not saying books need to be "dumbed down" - just more compact! (and small type is a no no too - lots of my kids won't pick up graphic novels b/c the type isn't readable for them.)

Jennifer said...

Ha, just had one of those "voracious readers" in last night. I gave her Savvy AND Scumble and the first two Theodosia, and the first two Borrowers, and Runaway Dragon, and Nuts and Larklight. Her mom said that would do for the weekend (-:)