Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review of Scumble by Ingrid Law

Law, Ingrid. Scumble. Dial, 2010 (August).

I suffered my first, and hopefully last, attack of hives a few weeks ago, brought on by an allergic reaction to a virus that laid me low for a few days. Because the allergic reaction was within my body, the areas of burning itchiness kept migrating all over my body, from my scalp to the inside of my right elbow to my left ankle to my neck. It was just like a band of badly behaved bees was rampaging around under my skin, using my veins like a highway to travel about and attack me from the inside. Small welts rose up wherever they stopped to carouse.

13-year-old Ledge (younger cousin to Mibs of Savvy fame) gets much the same feeling when his savvy sap starts to rise in his veins. It prickles him, it feels like ants beneath his skin, it drives him mad "like an itch foot inside a winter boot." When he gets that awful savvy prickle, he knows that it's going to come bursting out of him - and something is going to break.

Because that seems to be Ledge's savvy - the destruction of man-made objects. Ledge considers this to be not only worthless but downright inconvenient. How will he be able to go to school or live in polite society at all if he can't learn to "scumble" his talent?

His parents wisely decide to leave Ledge and his little sister Fedora at the Wyoming ranch of their uncle Autry. Autry's daughters are there, as are Ledge's other cousins Rocket, Samson, and Gypsy. Life on the ranch - which is an insect ranch, by the way, a way with bugs being Autry's savvy - would be fine if it weren't for Ledge's lack of control over his frustrating savvy. Matters are greatly complicated by the snooping presence of a strange local girl, Sarah Jane, who seems determined to root out all the family's secrets. To make matters worse, her father is set on repossessing and obliterating many of the businesses in town, including the ranch.

Like Savvy, Scumble has a bit of tall-tale folkiness to its language. Ledge, like Mibs, is a narrator who likes to use language creatively. Exaggeration and hyperbole are relished, not avoided. "After seeing the foreclosure sign, I didn't have the nerve to spill my guts - in case my uncle decided to feed them to his carnivorous beetles." This works because Ledge is in general a good and sensible kid. That he causes mass destruction wherever he goes is a source of great distress to him.

Ledge starts out rather clueless and gains confidence and, well, savvy as he makes his way through the summer, learning to control and understand his talent and himself. Along the way, he stops being so absolutely self-centered, realizing that Rocket and Sarah Jane have their own problems. Law's light, deft touch with language and humor keeps readers turning the pages, as does the ever-present possibility of yet another household appliance or large automobile exploding spectacularly.

And the savvy? It's magical, fun, and occasionally unpredictable. An O'Connell clan member wielding his or her talent with skillful and happy aplomb is a sight to behold, and readers will wish they had a savvy of their own.

Or maybe they do. This book had me wondering what my own previously unsuspected savvy might be. An uncanny ability to understand how rodents are feeling? A certain knowledge of what exactly is going on with my internal organs, particularly the digestive ones, at any time? You never know...

Recommended for grades 4 to 7.


  1. This does sound like a fun one--I didn't like Savvy all that all that much, as it were, but I'm looking forward to this one!

  2. this book is amazing as well as savvy! I hope Ingrid Law will make another companian! I love these books.

  3. one of the best books i have ever read! i wish everybody could read it.

  4. I loved this book and it was kinda like a companion to Savvy except boy version.