Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Scumble

I stumbled upon Ingrid Law's Scumble quite by chance.  After reading in a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book (we seem to be constantly re-reading those to the younger boys) about the scary portrait of Shel Silverstein on the back of his The Giving Tree, I promised to head to the library to check out the book and show them the frightening photo (which they have been holding up to their heads and dancing around with, saying "I'm Shel Silverstein - rawrrr!").  I glanced to the fiction rows behind me and noticed Ingrid Law's outstanding debut novel, Savvy, previously reviewed here.  I was thrilled to see Scumble next to it.

Sadly, I cannot say I feel as strongly about Scumble as I did about Savvy!  It was a good read, but when held up against the previous book, this book fell short.  The writing wasn't as magical. I didn't feel an urge to write passages down. The characters seemed harder to keep track of.  The pacing wasn't as perfect.  I loved Savvy!  I liked Scumble a lot.

As in the first novel, the main character, Ledger Kale, is approaching his thirteenth birthday, when he will discover his own endowed savvy (special talent or ability with a magical charm to it).  He is hoping he will be able to run like the wind because his father wants to win a father-son marathon.  But, like in the other book, savvies aren't predictable and often aren't welcome.  Ledger discovers that his savvy involves destruction.  And when a nosy, innocent bystander, Sarah Jane Cabot (who calls herself a reporter) observes his destruction first-hand, Ledger is scrambling to discern how much she knows and how best to keep his savvy a secret and under control.

The title of the book comes from a painting term where bright colors are muted or "scumbled" to balance out the whole of the picture.  So, Ledger Kale is learning to scumble his savvy before his destruction leaves a heap of people in a mess of trouble.  His other cousins, Rocket (who has an electrical savvy) and Sampson (who has an invisible savvy) are also trying to learn to scumble.

I appreciated the subtle lessons of being yourself and finding your own dreams.  The characters were lively and wholesome. I was surprised that the author was able to turn the talent of destruction into a positive attribute (my boys have this savvy already and it is a bit hard to see the positives, although Trevor does have an artistic mind that takes things apart and reorders them to make something beautiful).   

The story was a rollicking ride.  Since the main character is a boy, I'll be interested to see whether my boys prefer the first or second book.  It must be very hard to follow up a fantastic debut novel. Still, I would give a third book along these lines a shot.  There's something magical about believing in the gift of a special talent and every child will take something positive away from these books. 

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